The world number one’s 3-6 7-5 6-2 6-4 victory over Novak Djokovic gave him an unprecedented ninth title at Roland Garros, made him the first man to win it five times in a row and the first man ever to win a grand slam title in 10 successive seasons.
Djokovic had hoped to become only the eighth man to win all four grand slam titles but leaves Paris licking his wounds once again having lost to Nadal for the third straight year.
The Spaniard, who has won 66 of his 67 matches on the Paris clay, was very emotional at his moment of victory and his mind went back to the Australian Open final in January when a back injury compromised him against Stan Wawrinka. Speaking on court, Nadal said: “Today tennis gave me back what happened in Australia.”
At his press conference a couple of hours later, the Spaniard added: “I think it was an emotional victory after what happened in Australia.
“All the tournament I played great, and in the final it’s true that I played against a player that was playing amazing. I don’t know if I would be able to beat him in that match. But I didn’t compete, so that was a little bit hard to accept for me. I had few months after that when mentally I went down a little bit.
“Then it’s a process that you need to work, need to win matches to play better and better. That happened. That’s why I won against the toughest opponent possible today.”
Nadal had crushed Andy Murray in the semi-finals and went into the match as the favourite but his radar was a little off in the opening set and Djokovic took advantage.
The second set was crucial and, despite seeing a break slip away, it was Nadal who won it, the Spaniard managing to be more aggressive.
Nadal was much the stronger in the third but had to fight off a late fightback from Djokovic in the fourth, clinching victory when the Serbian double-faulted.
Nadal said: “It was very important for me to win that second set. Without that second set, I don’t know if I have this trophy with me now.”
Djokovic, who had won his previous four matches against Nadal, said: “It was a great start. I came back in the second, could have gone to the tie-break and it was quite even. I lost that service game at 6-5 and then the momentum went to his side.
“Congratulations to him. Of course it’s disappointing for me, but life goes on. It’s not the first time or last time that I lost a match.”