Fifth French Open title in six years
Rafael Nadal proved that when he is fit in body and mind nobody can stop him at the French Open, least of all last year's tormentor Robin Soderling.
Soderling threw all he could muster at Nadal during the early skirmishes of Sunday's Roland Garros final but unlike last year when those tactics proved so devastating, this time it was like tackling a raging bull with a pea shooter.
An imperious Nadal made just 16 mistakes during a 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 victory that gave him a fifth French Open title in six years and left him just one behind Bjorn Borg's record.
When a weary Soderling slapped a backhand into the net at the end of a second consecutive defeat in the final here, Nadal collapsed backwards, closed his eyes and clenched his fists.
Image: Rafael Nadal lifts the French Open trophy after beating Robin Soderling
Most emotional day of Nadal's career
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 one of her country's favourite sons.
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.
Image: An emotional Nadal
Nadal regains No.1 spot
Nadal will replace rival Roger Federer as number one in the world rankings on Monday but all that mattered to the 24-year-old 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, told reporters. "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 told reporters.
There can be few arguments about that as Andy Roddick said on his Twitter site: "Rafa Nadal... best ever on clay -- period."This year's statistics on the red dirt are staggering. 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.
Image: Rafa Nadal reacts after beating Robin Soderlng
"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," he added.
Early morning thunderstorms had departed by the time Nadal bounded back to the baseline to begin the final which attracted not only Spanish royalty but music stars Beyonce and her husband Jay-Z.
As expected, fifth seed Soderling came out all guns blazing hoping to chip away at Nadal's armour. His flat groundstrokes kept Nadal pinned back and he had a break point in the fourth game, which he wasted with a loose backhand.
The match quickly turned in Nadal's favour when he broke in the following game after Soderling elected to leave a passing shot that landed well inside the court. The shake of the Swede's head said it all.
Image: Rafa Nadal in dressing room after the match