Rafael Nadal last night said all the frustrations of the past year came pouring out as he sobbed into his towel after sealing a fifth French Open title.
Nadal yesterday ended more than 16 months without a grand slam with another clay-court masterclass on Philippe Chatrier Court to avenge last year's defeat to Robin Soderling.
The Spaniard saved his best performance of the tournament — and arguably of the season — for the only man ever to have beaten him at Roland Garros.
The 24-year-old's 6-4 6-2 6-4 victory in two hours and 18 minutes ended any doubt over his status as the undisputed king of clay, gave him his seventh major championship and will see him overtake Roger Federer as world number one today.
Nadal has been dogged by tendinitis in his knees in the past year, leaving him unable to defend his Wimbledon title last summer and forcing him to retire against Andy Murray in the defence of his Australian Open crown earlier this year.
It is also thought the injury was a big factor in last year's shock French Open defeat to Soderling.
Nadal was unable to fight back the tears after beating the Swede yesterday, revealing he feared he might never get back to the pinnacle of the game.
“I had a difficult year, and for some moments was difficult to accept the injuries and everything,” said Nadal, who was also suffering from an abdominal problem at the US Open.
“Some moments you don't know if you'll be ready another time to compete, and be 100 per cent.
“It's a big frustration when you are at the US Open and you tear an abdominal one week before and you are in Australia and have to retire during the quarter-final match.
“And for that reason, today is a very, very special day for me.”
Hailing his triumph as one of the most important of his career, the Spaniard added: “I worked a lot to be here.
“I was very nervous during the whole tournament because I knew beforehand that I was ready to win another time.”
Despite reclaiming the number one spot he had not held for almost a year, Nadal insisted his tears were reserved for regaining his French Open title.
Pointing to the Coupe des Mousquetaires, he said: “This is the most important thing for me. When I was crying after the match, the last thing I was thinking about was the number one. The first thing is the title and all the hours I worked to be here another time.”
Nadal revealed he would not have time to celebrate his triumph because he was heading to London to begin practising for the AEGON Championships at Queen's.