RAFAEL NADAL insists he is not the best clay-court player of all time, despite underlining his utter dominance on the surface by claiming his fifth French Open title in six years.
Nadal chalked up his seventh Grand Slam by sweeping past Sweden’s Robin Soderling, the only man ever to beat him at Roland Garros, in straight sets.
Fifth seed Soderling had looked in sensational form over the past fortnight in Paris, even knocking out top seed Roger Federer, but was coolly despatched 6-4, 6-2, 6-4.
Victory took Nadal’s winning streak on his favoured surface to 22, following tournament wins earlier this year in Monte Carlo, Rome and Madrid.
But the Spaniard, 24, is not ready to be crowned the best player on clay of all time, preferring to wait until he hangs up his racket before contemplating that accolade.
“I never thought to have the chance to win this tournament, five titles – for me, that’s more than a dream,” said Nadal, who broke down after the winning point.
“When I see these titles and these numbers, it’s amazing. I don’t know how I did. But first of all, I’d be very arrogant if I say I am the best in history. Secondly, I don’t believe I am the best in history. I try my best every day, and we will see when I finish my career.”
Success in Paris will also lift Nadal back to the top of the world rankings, a feat that seemed unlikely after a frustrating 12 months hampered by injuries. “I think this is one of the most important victories in my career,” he added. “Last year was difficult for me. I worked a lot to be here.”
Nadal, who is now one shy of Bjorn Borg’s record of six French Open wins, did not drop a set throughout the tournament. Big-hitting Soderling tried manfully in the first set, but after conceding that Nadal looked certain to win, and victory came in little more than two hours.
ROLL OF HONOUR | NADAL’S SLAMS
Australian Open: 2009
French Open: 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010