PARIS (Reuters) - A year after probably the lowest point of his career, Rafa Nadal sat in the same news conference seat on Sunday and described his 10th French Open title as one of his most special.
A crushing 6-2 6-3 6-1 victory over Stan Wawrinka on Court Philippe Chatrier made the 31-year-old Spaniard the most successful player at a single slam in the professional era.
The fact that he had to wait three years to claim a 15th major title made it all the sweeter -- as did the fact that uncle Toni -- his coach since he was six -- handed him the Coupe des Mousquetaires in an emotional ceremony.
Nadal was forced to pull out of last year’s French Open -- the tournament he cherishes most -- after potential career-threatening damage to his left wrist tendons.
At that time, and with his ranking sliding, his grand slam-winning days seemed to be numbered.
But in an astonishing resurgence the Mallorcan reached this year’s Australian Open final, losing a classic to old sparring partner Roger Federer, and has steamrollered through the European claycourt season, winning a 10th title in Monte Carlo and Barcelona and a fifth in Madrid.
Defeat by Austria’s Dominic Thiem in Rome was a minor blip as Nadal went on to enjoy total domination at Roland Garros, emulating his 2008 and 2010 titles when he did not drop a set.
He leaked only 35 games -- prompting former world number one Andy Roddick to quip on Twitter: “He lost 35 games in the entire tournament... Pretty sure I’ve lost my car keys 35 times this year.”
Nadal had played down La Decima. But there was no doubt what reclaiming the title on his beloved Parisian clay meant.
“There have been magical things that happened in this tournament for me. So happy for everything,” he told a throng of media in a room alongside Court Philippe Chatrier.
”Today was a very important day for me. (There) have been some tough moments with injuries, so it’s great to have (a) big success like this again. I’ve been working a lot to be where I am today.
”For me, every Roland Garros has been very important. You have some that are (more) special than others. Every one is unique.
“But it’s true that this one is going to be one of the more special ones for the 10, for what happened in the ceremony after the final, for so many things. And because I am 31 already and not a kid anymore. And for the level of tennis.”
Asked what the most difficult moments were during the past fortnight, Nadal was stumped. There really were not any.
“Obviously the semi-finals and finals, the nerves are there, you know, more than before,” he said.
”But the closest I was to being in trouble was being 3-1 down (in the second set) against (Benoit) Paire in the first round.
“The reality is I have not had any. I won all the matches with unbelievable results.”
Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris