Highlights - Nadal regains French Open title
By Piers Newbery
BBC Sport at Roland Garros
Rafael Nadal said that winning a fifth French Open title had finally banished his own doubts about whether he would be able to return to his very best after a succession of injury problems.
The 24-year-old Spaniard beat Robin Soderling 6-4 6-2 6-4 to win the title at Roland Garros for the fifth time in six years, having lost to the Swede in last year's fourth round.
After losing his French Open title and with it the number one ranking 12 months ago, Nadal was then unable to defend his Wimbledon crown because of tendinitis in his knees, struggled with an abdominal problem at the US Open and then had to retire during his quarter-final against Andy Murray at the Australian Open when the knee issue resurfaced.
It was with that in mind that Nadal described his seventh Grand Slam victory on Sunday as "one of the most important".
He added: "I had a difficult year, and for some moments it was difficult to accept the injuries and everything. For some moments you don't know if you are ready to compete another time, if you are 100%.
"At the same time, sometimes it's a big frustration when you are in the US Open and you break an abdominal one week before, and you are in Australia and have to retire during the quarter-finals.
"So all these moments are difficult to accept. I was there all the time, and for that reason today is a very, very special day for me."
Nadal returns to the top of the world rankings on Monday, taking the French Open title from Roger Federer and with it the Swiss player's chance to match Pete Sampras's record of 286 weeks as number one, but when asked which was more significant he was in little doubt.
"I think that for me it's Roland Garros, this is the most important thing for me," said Nadal, pointing to the trophy. "When I was crying after the match, the last thing I was thinking was about the number one."
Nadal completed a magnificent clay-court season on Sunday with a 22-0 record that saw him win the titles in Monte Carlo, Rome, Madrid and Paris for the loss of just two sets, but he steered clear of suggestions he was now the best ever player on the surface.
"I'm sure that the numbers are unbelievable for me, I never thought I'd have the chance to win this tournament five times or Monte Carlo six or Barcelona five, I think, or Rome five," he said. "For me, that's more than a dream.
"When I see these titles and these numbers, for me it's amazing. I don't know how I did it. But first of all, I'm going to be very arrogant if I say for myself I am the best in history. Second thing, I don't believe I am the best in history. I try my best every day, and we will see when I finish my career. I not going to be the one who decides if I am the best or not. You maybe, but not me."
Nadal saved all eight break points he faced against Soderling and described himself afterwards as a "specialist" in that department, adding: "Today I felt great physically. I felt perfect mentally, too. My movement was much better today than the rest of the tournament.
"So I am very happy how I played today, because I played with very good tactics and the movement was at my best level."
Nadal now heads to London hoping to reclaim the titles at Queen's Club and Wimbledon that he was unable to defend last year.
"Winning here and winning the last 22 matches on clay is always very good preparation for grass," he said. "So tomorrow (Monday) afternoon I'm going to be practising at Queen's for not a lot of time. For 45 minutes. Maybe I will play doubles on Tuesday there to prepare and later I'm going to play, I think, singles on Wednesday.
Soderling met an opponent in exasperatingly good form
"I love this tournament. I love Queen's always. It's a different tournament because you play in a club. That makes the tournament very special."
And asked if he planned a party on Sunday night, a smiling Nadal said: "Difficult to have a big celebration if you have to practice tomorrow."
Soderling had to deal with being comfortably beaten in the final for the second year in a row, following his defeat by Federer 12 months ago.
"Losing a final in a Grand Slam is not great," he said. "It's not a great feeling. But, you know, I wasn't close in any one of them. I lost straight sets last year and the same this year. It's always tougher if you lose a really, really close match."
And Soderling had little in the way of insight as to why he failed to convert any of his eight chances to break the Nadal serve, saying: "I have no explanation why I didn't take the break points today."
He added: "The margins are very small. Of course I didn't play as good this year as I did against him last year. I didn't serve as well. I wasn't hitting the ball as clean.
"It was tough today. I didn't really get into the match.
"Rafa always plays kind of the same. He has more or less one game, but he does it so well it's enough to not lose a match on clay for a whole year, which is pretty good. But you always know what to expect when you play against him. I think in the beginning I was a little bit unlucky; I had a few break chances. I didn't take them, so then of course it was tough. I don't think it would have changed anything."
And the Swede was keen to bury once and for all the suggestion that he and Nadal do not get on, following an acrimonious match at Wimbledon three years ago.
"I said, I don't know, like 200 times or even more, I have nothing against Rafa," said Soderling. "I think he's a great player. He definitely has the chance to be number one for a long time if he plays like this."