Journey back to title success is a pleasing one for Nadal

Rafael Nadal took satisfaction from the journey not just the destination after overcoming a difficult period to lift his 12th title at the French Open.

It was a repeat of last year’s final and the Spaniard dropped a set this time but hit back brutally to defeat Dominic Thiem 6-3 5-7 6-1 6-1 and win a 12th French Open title.

Nadal now stands on his own as the most successful singles player, male or female, at a single grand slam having moved clear of the 11 titles won by Margaret Court at the Australian Open.

Spain’s Rafael Nadal celebrates his record 12th French Open title (AP)
Spain’s Rafael Nadal celebrates his record 12th French Open title (AP)

But what appeared routine from the outside, the 33-year-old losing just two sets all tournament, felt far from that way inside Nadal’s camp.

Coach Carlos Moya said: “It’s been the toughest period for sure since I’m there. It was really hard. He really had to push himself to the limit to be back on the court, to practise, to be motivated.

“He had an unbelievable attitude in those bad moments and that’s what took him here today.

Austria’s Dominic Thiem was beaten in four sets (AP)
Austria’s Dominic Thiem was beaten in four sets (AP)

“Hats off to what he’s done this month and a half because it’s easy to play well when all the things are working well but what he’s been through this last couple of months is showing what a competitor he is and mentally that he’s a genius.”

Nadal missed the end of last season because of knee trouble and then a foot operation and he was forced onto the sidelines again after Indian Wells in March when his knees gave him further problems.

“After Indian Wells, mentally I was down,” he said. “It’s tough when you receive one (punch), another, and then sometimes you are groggy.”

Victory over Leonardo Mayer (pictured) gave Nadal a lift (Steven Paston/PA)
Victory over Leonardo Mayer (pictured) gave Nadal a lift (Steven Paston/PA)

Nadal pinpointed a first-round victory over Leonardo Mayer at the Barcelona Open in April, where he had to come back from a set down, as the turning point.

He said: “After the first round in Barcelona, I was able to stay alone for a couple of hours in the room and think about what was going on, what I needed to do.

“One possibility was to stop for a while and recover my body. And the other was to change drastically my attitude and my mentality. Finally I think I was able to change and was able to fight back for every small improvement. And since that match things have been improving every single day until today.

Rafael Nadal says overhauling the record 20 grand slam titles of Roger Federer (pictured) is “a motivation, but not my obsession” (John Walton/PA)
Rafael Nadal says overhauling the record 20 grand slam titles of Roger Federer (pictured) is “a motivation, but not my obsession” (John Walton/PA)

“Of course to have this trophy with me means a lot. But the personal satisfaction of changing the dynamic is the thing that I am more satisfied with.”

Nadal now has 18 slam titles overall, meaning for the first time he has closed to within two of his great rival Roger Federer, whose all-time men’s record of 20 titles appears increasingly within reach for either Nadal or Djokovic.

“It’s a motivation, but it’s not my obsession,” said Nadal. “You can’t be frustrated all the time because the neighbour has a bigger house than you or a bigger TV or better garden. That’s not the way that I see life.”

- Press Association

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