After shaking hands with Soderling and sitting down on his chair, the tears rolled freely down Nadal’s face as Spain’s Queen Sofia gazed proudly down on him.
With the gleaming Coupe des Mousquetaires tucked under his arm, Nadal told the crowd on Chatrier court that it was the most emotional day of his career, more so than his previous four victories here or his 2008 Wimbledon triumph.
Nadal will replace rival Roger Federer as number one in the world rankings on Monday but all that mattered to him on Sunday was that the demons of 2009 – when knee injuries and the divorce of his parents drained his powers – had been banished.
“When I was crying after the match, the last thing I was thinking about was the number one ranking,” Nadal, who matched his 2008 feat when he also won the title without dropping a set, said.
“The first thing is the title and all the hours I worked to be here another time.”
His uncle, coach and confidant Toni summed up what it meant.
“For Rafael it’s more important to know that he is one of the best claycourt players in history,” he said.
Nadal has dropped just two sets throughout the claycourt season which he ended on Sunday with a 22-0 record before heading off to prepare for Wimbledon.
“The numbers are unbelievable for me, no?” said Nadal, who became the first man to make a clean sweep of the big four clay titles in one season by adding the French crown to his wins in Monte Carlo, Rome and Madrid.
“When I see these titles and these numbers, for me is amazing. I don’t know how I did it.”