Nadal, Soderling to renew rivalry

WIMBLEDON, England (AP) — While waiting nearly 1½ years for another shot at Roger Federer on a Grand Slam stage, Rafael Nadal has developed a pretty fair rivalry with Robin Soderling.

The Spaniard and Swede will meet in a major event for the third time since June 2009 in Wednesday's quarterfinals at Wimbledon.

Soderling pulled off a shocker last year when they played in the fourth round of the French Open, still Nadal's only defeat in that event. Nadal avenged the loss in this month's final at Roland Garros.

Nadal expects the big-swinging Soderling to be even tougher on grass than on clay.

"Probably he's one of the more difficult opponents that you can play on all surfaces today, but especially here," Nadal said, "because the ball goes faster, and it's going to be very difficult to return, and difficult to stop him from the baseline.

"It's going to be a very difficult match for me, I think. Hopefully for him, too."

While upsets were the norm Tuesday for the women, with five-time champion Venus Williams among those eliminated, the four highest-seeded men have reached the final eight. Along with the No. 2-seeded Nadal against No. 6 Soderling, the other matchups include No. 1 Federer against No. 12 Tomas Berdych, No. 3 Novak Djokovic against unseeded Yen-hsun Lu, and No. 4 Andy Murray against No. 10 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Federer vs. Nadal remains a tantalizing possibility Sunday. Nadal has won the past three times they've met in a Grand Slam final, including an epic match for the 2008 Wimbledon title, but they haven't played each other in a major event since the 2009 Australian Open.

Soderling might again forestall a rematch. He has been the runner-up at the French Open the past two years, beating Federer in Paris this year, and is now into the quarterfinals at Wimbledon for the first time.

Growing up, Soderling said, he watched telecasts of finals from the All England Club between fellow Swede Stefan Edberg and Boris Becker.

"I always loved to watch the bigger tournaments, especially Wimbledon, such an old tournament with a lot of tradition," Soderling said. "For me, Wimbledon is the biggest one. If I had to pick one I really wanted to win, I would pick Wimbledon."

The same goes for another potential spoiler: Murray. He's trying to become the first British man since 1936 to win the title.

Despite the weight of a nation's expectations, he's the only man who has yet to lose a set in the tournament.

"At home in all sports is just a huge, huge advantage," Murray said. "People talk a lot about the pressure and the expectation of playing at Wimbledon, but you have that home support. For me, anyway, it has made a huge difference to the way that I played. It makes you feel comfortable on the court."


PARTNERSHIP REVIVED: Anna Kournikova and Martina Hingis say their tennis comebacks won't involve a return to singles on the WTA Tour.

They ended long Wimbledon absences by playing legends doubles Tuesday. At 29, they're younger than some tour regulars but not tempted to resume their careers.

"I'm going to be 30 years old," Hingis said. "It's a commitment you have to do. You travel 35, 40 weeks a year. I think I've played enough tennis in my life."

"It's time to experience other things and grow and move on," Kournikova added.

Kournikova and Hingis revived their doubles partnership and beat Samantha Smith and Anne Hobbs of Britain 6-2, 6-4 in a first-round legends match. Kournikova hadn't played at Wimbledon since 2002, Hingis since 2007.

"It's an amazing opportunity to be back at Wimbledon," said Kournikova, who reached the semifinals as a 16-year-old in 1997. "I had so much fun today. Kind of jittery a little bit. But I had an amazing time."

Hingis plans to play a full season of WorldTeam Tennis this summer after a two-year ban for testing positive for cocaine at Wimbledon in 2007. The former No. 1 player denied taking the drug but did not appeal the ban.

"It's great fun to be out there again with Anna," Hingis said. "We had some great times. We're sharing some good times again. Totally different ballgame."


AUDIENCE RISING: Thanks in part to the longest match in tennis history, ESPN2's audience for the first week at Wimbledon was up 14 percent over last year, and hours watched on broadband were up nearly fourfold.

Part of the marathon fifth set between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut drew an average of 814,000 homes, based on a 0.8 rating. The only ESPN2 Wimbledon telecast with a larger audience was 971,000 homes on July 4, 2008, based on a 1.0 rating.

For the week, ESPN2's average audience rose to 466,000 from 408,000 in 2009, and the average rating climbed to 0.5 from 0.4.

Isner was to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at Tuesday night's Yankees-Mariners game in New York.