Clay king Nadal reveals how he did it

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Associated Press

Rafael Nadal of Spain holds up his trophy after winning the men's final against Novak Djokovic of Serbia at the French Open tennis tournament in Paris.

Paris - It is not the high looping bounce that sits up perfectly for his vicious top spin forehand that makes Rafael Nadal the King of Clay - the Spaniard says it is his sheer mental toughness.

Nadal beat world number one Novak Djokovic on Monday to usurp Sweden's iceman Bjorn Borg with a record seventh French Open title, a staggering feat considering it came in only his eighth Roland Garros campaign.

His only blemish in an otherwise perfect record on the red Parisian dust was a shock defeat to Robin Soderling in the last 16 in 2009 - and that was when he was struggling with tendinitis in his knees.

This year's run to the title was a lesson in how to be a psychological bully as he took on some renowned claycourters and left them gasping for breath.

Players brought up on the beaten red brick surface, like Argentina's Juan Monaco, and Spaniards Nicolas Almagro and David Ferrer, all came and swiftly went as Nadal moved ominously forward without dropping a set and losing the fewest games he ever has en route to a grand slam final.

He was only broken once before playing Djokovic and that was in his first round against Simone Bolelli when he was still cranking into gear.

“My mental part is one of the most important things, especially on clay,” he told reporters with the Musketeers' Cup perched by his side.

“More than with the rest of the surfaces, because you have to run, you have to suffer sometimes, you have to play with more tactics, because you have more time to think, to do things.

“The reason is probably because I am always scared to lose. That's why I go on court every day against opponents with the full respect, knowing that you can lose and you can win.

“I think I have been very focused for the last eight years, because winning as much as I did on this surface is not because I played great every time.

“It is impossible to play great every time but when I played so-so, I was there mentally. The mental part was there 100 percent.”

Few would now doubt that the Mallorcan battler is the greatest player to have ever played on this surface - except maybe the man himself.

“I don't know if I am the best or not,” he explained. “I am not the right one to say that.

“The only thing is I have probably the best results ever on this surface, and for me this is great.

“For me it is a really emotional day to win another time here. Sure, the seventh is important because I am the player who has the most today.”

He needed every morsel of that mental resilience to keep Djokovic at bay as the rain started to fall on Philippe Chatrier Court in the evening gloom on Sunday.

Before the match was suspended for the night, the Serb had won eight straight games to claw his way back from two sets down to trail 2-1 with a break in the fourth.

The Spaniard had started to lose his cool as playing conditions worsened in the rain, visibility deteriorated and heavy balls turned brown as they soaked up the damp clay.

In anger he tossed one at the umpire to make his point that it was time to call it a night.

“Seriously, I was very nervous all the night,” he said.

“I was a little bit anxious to play what remains of the match.

“It was clearly a good thing for me to stop yesterday, because with those conditions, well, seriously, the last couple of games, the condition of the court was not right to play a final of a grand slam. We had to stop.” - Reuters


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