WORLD No1 in waiting Rafael Nadal described this as his most emotional season yet after crowning an improbable comeback from career-threatening injury with a formidable and victorious US Open campaign.
The Spaniard’s ability to add to his 12 grand slams looked in grave doubt when chronic knee problems forced him to take seven months off, only returning to competition in February.
But since then Nadal has confounded the sceptics by appearing stronger than ever, winning eight titles, including two grand slams, and suffering just three defeats in 63 matches.
He has also exhibited a new-found mastery of hard courts, of which Monday’s 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 over Novak Djokovic proved the latest evidence.
“For a few reasons, this season is probably the most emotional one in my career,” said Nadal.
“I felt that I did everything right to have my chance here. You play a match against one of the best players in history like Novak on probably his favourite surface, so I knew I had to be almost perfect to win.
“It means a lot for me to have this trophy. It’s just amazing. I’m very, very happy, and I just say thank you very much to everybody who helped me to make that possible. It’s a really special moment for me.
“I never thought something like this could happen. I was so excited to be back on tour trying to be competitive.
“I never thought about competing for all that I competed for this year. It’s just more than a dream for me, and I’m very happy for everything.”
The 27-year-old’s 13th grand slam title means he is third in the all-time list, just one behind seven-time Wimbledon champion Pete Sampras and four adrift of Roger Federer.
MOST MEN’S SLAMS
■ 17: Roger Federer (4 Australian Opens, 1 French, 7 Wimbledon, 5 US)
■ 14: Pete Sampras (2 Aus, 7 Wimbledon, 5 US)
■ 13: Rafael Nadal (1 Aus, 8 French, 2 Wimbledon, 2 US)
■ 12: Roy Emerson (6 Aus, 2 French, 2 Wimbledon, 2 US)
■ 11: Rod Laver (3 Aus, 2 French, 4 Wimbledon, 2 US)
■ 11: Bjorn Borg (6 French, 5 Wimbledon)