Nadal: It Was A Perfect Roland Garros
Twelve years ago, a precocious, long-haired Rafael Nadal stood on Court Philippe Chatrier with his arms wrapped around the Coupe des Mousquetaires for the first time. For more than a decade, the Spaniard re-wrote the history books with a clay-court mastery never before witnessed.
On Sunday, Nadal cemented his Roland Garros legacy with an extraordinary, incomprehensible 10th victory at the clay-court Grand Slam. Few superlatives accurately reflect the magnitude of Nadal's achievement and the Spaniard himself struggled to find the right words to describe his emotions.
"It's about the work you put in every day," Nadal said to the assembled media following a 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 victory over Stan Wawrinka. "It happened 10 times here already. All the things that happened in this tournament for me have been magical. I'm very happy for everything.
"Today was a very important day for me. There have been some tough moments and injuries, so it's great to have a big success like this again. I'm happy because I have been working a lot to be where I am today... The only thing that I know is I am playing well now. I am happy. I am enjoying every week and I want to continue like this. I am going to try to keep working hard to enjoy more beautiful weeks."
Nadal's journey to his 15th Grand Slam crown was his most dominant yet. A relentless force throughout the fortnight in Paris, the new World No. 2 marched to the trophy without dropping a set. Moreover, his 35 games lost is just the second fewest en route to a major title in the Open Era. He also became just the third player to win a Grand Slam title in his teens, 20s and 30s, joining Ken Rosewall and Pete Sampras.
"You know, on paper, when you look at the scores, it all seems fairly easy. But it's not... I have been playing great during the whole event, since the beginning. So it was a perfect Roland Garros for me.
"It's not that I am playing more or less aggressive. I am playing well. And when you play well, you have the chance to play more aggressive. I won in two hours because I didn't lose a set during the whole event and not one set went to five - 5-all - so that's why the time on court had not been that long."
Nadal didn't just turn back the clock with his run through the clay-court season, posting a 24-1 record and emerging victorious in Monte-Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid. He sent a message to the rest of the ATP World Tour in establishing a 2,870-point lead in the Emirates ATP Race To London. There seems to be no stopping the Spaniard in 2017.
"Winning these kind of titles, then you have chances to become any number on the ranking. If I am able to keep playing well, why not?" Nadal added when asked about his prospects to return to World No. 1 .
"It is true that this one is going to be one of the more special for the number , for the ceremony after the final, for so many things. And because I am 31 already and not a kid anymore. Because of the level of tennis and accepting that I have had physical problems for the last period of time, that's an important one."
With a surge of momentum at his back, the Manacor native will next look to conquer the grass as he heads to London for the Aegon Championships and Wimbledon. Nadal, the 2008 champion at Queen's Club and two-time titlist at the All England Club, will return to the tournaments for the first time since 2015.
While he eagerly anticipates his return to the prestigious events, Nadal is well aware of the challenges ahead.
"I'm going to be under pressure in one week when I play in Queen's. That's the real thing and that's the sport. And that's the beautiful thing about our sport. My motivation is still there. I really want to keep competing for important things and I am going to keep working hard to try to have more days like today.
"That's my motivation and that's why I am playing tennis, still playing tennis, because I have the passion for the game and I like the competition. I will keep having chances to compete for the most important things and that's what I want to try to do."