Rafael Nadal admitted Sunday that the prospect of winning a 13th French Open and taking his Grand Slam total to a record-equalling 20 had seemed even beyond his powers of endurance in the run-up to the tournament.
The 34-year-old Spaniard demolished Novak Djokovic 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 to go level with Roger Federer’s all-time men’s record of majors.
It was his 100th match win at Roland Garros against just two defeats since his 2005 debut as he became the oldest champion in Paris since Andres Gimeno in 1972.
However, world number two Nadal had arrived in the French capital having played just one tournament since February as the coronavirus-enforced lockdown also prompted him to skip the US Open where he had been the defending champion.
“Honestly, for me, one month and a half ago if you tell me you’re going to have this trophy with you again, I will say, ‘this year will probably be too difficult’.
“Doubts are part of life. For me doubts are good because it means that you don’t consider yourself too good. Of course, the year has been a tough year for everyone.
“But in the sport, life can change quickly.”
Nadal has been acutely aware of the challenges posed by the pandemic, claiming Sunday that his victory was tempered by the crisis which had also seen crowds limited to just 1,000 people a day at Roland Garros.
“It’s an important day for me, but I’m not stupid. It is still a very sad situation worldwide. If you ask me what’s my feeling, of course I am super happy.
“On the other hand, I am not that happy as usual because the situation is tough for most of the people around the world.”
The health situation may also see him yet call time on his season which would mean missing out on the chance to win a first ATP Finals, one of the titles still missing from his career tally of 86.
– End of year for Nadal? –
“I can’t tell you if I’m going to keep playing or not keep playing for the next couple of months. I didn’t decide, so I am not sure if I am going to keep going on the normal calendar or if I stop playing until next year,” said Nadal.
“I need to calm down the situation and analyse the future, because we are facing a tough situation, as everybody knows.
“In terms of Australia, 14 days of quarantine before the tournament starts. It is the moment to be smart and make the right decisions.”
On Sunday, Nadal finished the one-sided affair with just 14 unforced errors to Djokovic’s 52 as he defeated the Serb for a third time in the Paris final and seventh time overall in eight meetings at the tournament.
Djokovic, courtesy of his 2015 quarter-final win, remains just one of two men to have defeated Nadal at Roland Garros since 2005.
“For two sets and a half I played great. It’s impossible to have this score against him without playing great,” said Nadal.
“Yeah, I played a very good final. I played at my highest level when I needed to play at my highest level, so something that I am very proud.
“The personal satisfaction is big because under the circumstances that we played this Roland Garros, even if I played an amazing match this afternoon, the conditions are not the conditions that I will choose, never, to play an event like this.”