Söderling has been something of a bogeyman for Nadal, since having inflicted a single shock defeat at Roland Garros for the Spaniard in the fourth round in 2009, before Nadal gained revenge in the 2010 final.
Five-time champion Rafael Nadal reached the quarter-finals on Monday with a 7-5, 6-3, 6-3 win over Croatia’s Ivan Ljubicic.
It was another low-key display by the top-seeded Spaniard against the veteran Ljubicic before he took his Paris record to 42 wins and just one loss.
Big-swinging Swedish fifth seed Soderling meanwhile made light work of the French 18th seed Gilles Simon 6-2, 6-3, 7-6 (7/5).
Nadal, bidding for a sixth French Open title to take him level with Björn Borg’s record, has looked a shadow of his usual powerful self in Paris, shaken by the super-charged form of Novak Djokovic.
The 24-year-old has cut a world-weary figure both on and off the court, complaining he sometimes feels as if he’s been on tour for “100 years”, is a champion under pressure.
World number two Novak Djokovic, on a staggering 43-match unbeaten run, is tipped to take the Spaniard’s Paris title, as well as the number one ranking, after picking up the Australian Open and six other titles this year.
“I am not playing enough well to win this tournament. That’s the truth,” said Nadal, who needs one more French Open to equal Björn Borg’s record of six.
“You have to be realistic. But I have won here five times already. I don’t have an obligation to win six.”
His mood would not have been improved by knowing that the Serbian second
seed was excused quarter-final duty when scheduled opponent Fabio Fognini of
Italy withdrew with a torn left thigh muscle.
Robin Söderling, who needed a fifth match point to defeat Simon for the sixth time in eight meetings, meanwhile said he feels inspired every time he comes back to
“I have good memories of this tournament. I have won a lot of great matches here and I get a great feeling every time I come back,” he said.
French ninth seed Gael Monfils, a 2008 semi-finalist, set-up a last-eight
clash with third seed Roger Federer after defeating Spain’s David Ferrer 6-4, 2-6, 7-5, 1-6, 8-6.
Argentina’s Juan Ignacio Chela shattered Alejandro Falla’s dreams of becoming the first Colombian man to reach a Grand Slam quarter-final with a 4-6, 6-2, 1-6, 7-6 (7/5), 6-2 win.
He will face either British fourth seed Andy Murray, who is carrying an ankle injury, or Serbia’s 15th seed Victor Troicki for a place in the semi-finals.
Murray recovered from two sets to love down to pull level with the Serbian Davis Cup winner when darkness halted their tie which will be played to a finish on Tuesday.