Rafael Nadal has said he would probably not have played any grand slam other than the French Open so bad was his chronic foot injury.
The Spaniard’s record-extending 14th triumph on the Paris clay earned him an all-time best 22nd men’s singles major with a 6-3 6-3 6-0 crushing of Norway’s Casper Ruud.
That put him two titles clear of Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.
It was the ‘most unexpected’ of his French Open titles, Nadal told Reuters on Monday after limping into the scintillating salon of a central Paris hotel.
Asked if he would have played any other Grand Slam with the injury that forced him to have injections to numb his foot, Nadal said: “Probably not”.
“We have been through a lot of emotions. Probably the most unexpected, surprising (title) – and all the things I had to do to play the event makes the title one of the most special,” the 36-year-old said.
Nadal said that because of the injury, which also meant he arrived in Paris with no title in th claycourt swing, he was not confident he would be able to compete for the Musketeers’ Cup.
“When you arrive with a poor preparation like I did, every day is a challenge; you need to increase your level of tennis every single day,” he explained.
“I just took it one (round) at a time.”
While there was no doubt in his mind that he would take part in the claycourt major, whether he would be capable of gunning for the title was another matter, especially with world No.1 Novak Djokovic awaiting in the quarter-finals.
“I always had the confidence that I would be able to play because I played with no feeling in the foot, with a foot asleep because of the anaesthetic injections into the nerve,” he said.
“But the problem is not just the match, it’s also the practice. I never thought about not playing here but I thought it would be very difficult to be competitive.”
In the event Nadal came through a five-set match with Felix Auger-Aliassime in the last 16, beat Djokovic in a four-set thriller in the quarters, and had been on court for more than three hours when Alexander Zverev sustained a freak ankle injury that ended their semi-final with the Spaniard leading 7-6 6-6.
Looking ahead Nadal said: “I am going to be in Wimbledon if my body is ready to be in Wimbledon. Wimbledon is not a tournament that I want to miss.”
He added: “Wimbledon is a priority, always has been a priority. If I’m able to play with anti-inflammatories, yes.
“To play with anaesthetic injections, I do not want to put myself in that position again. It can happen once but no it’s not the philosophy of life I want to follow.”