© Peter Staples/ATP Tour

Little by little, Rafael Nadal improved his form in time to win his 12th Roland Garros title.

Nadal Details His Clay-Court Season Turning Point

Spaniard celebrates his 82nd tour-level title

Rafael Nadal had two options after a lackluster – but successful – start to his Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell six weeks ago: He could either take some time off and rest his body, or he could drastically change his attitude and get to work.

The Spaniard had just beaten Argentine Leonardo Mayer 6-7(7), 6-4, 6-2, but was disappointed with how he competed.

After the first round in Barcelona, I was able to stay alone for a couple of hours in the room and think about it and think about what's going on, what I need to do,” Nadal said on Sunday.

Thinking a lot, finally I think I was able to change and was able to fight back for every small improvement that I was able to make that happen. And since that first match against Mayer in Barcelona, I think the things have been improving every single day since today.”

The improvement since 24 April culminated in a record-extending performance on Sunday as Nadal beat Dominic Thiem 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 for his 12th Roland Garros title and 18th Grand Slam crown.

These small things that I have been improving every single day and doing with the right attitude, doing with the right passion, that's the only way for me to be back where I am today,” Nadal said. “To have this trophy with me means a lot. But personally, the personal satisfaction of changing the dynamic is the thing that I am [most] satisfied [with].”

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Nadal now sits only two Slam titles away from Roger Federer and his all-time record of 20, the closest the Spaniard has ever been to the Swiss on the Slam leaderboard. The Spaniard says equalling Federer “is a motivation but it's not my obsession” and that he's never been worried about how many Slam titles he has compared to others.

Being honest, I never complain much, and I never tried to think about, 'Well, I'm going to catch Roger or not'. Being honest, I am not very worried about this stuff,” he said. “You can't be frustrated all the time because the neighbour has a bigger house than you or a bigger TV or better garden. That's not the way that I see life.”

Nadal, however, wouldn't mind finishing a title or two higher than Federer and Novak Djokovic (15) when they've all set aside their racquets.

If, at the end of my career, I am able to win a couple of more Grand Slams and be closer to Roger, [it] will be unbelievable. If not, for me, still unbelievable,” Nadal said. “For me, [to win] Roland Garros, to feel myself enjoying again on court, that's the main thing. Then what can happen in the future, we will see. I am going to try my best to keep enjoying tennis, giving myself chances to compete at the highest level, and we will see what's going on.”

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It has been a trying 18 months for Nadal, who played only nine events in 2018 yet still finished at No. 2 in the year-end ATP Rankings. This year, the Spaniard reached the Australian Open final (l. to Djokovic) but had to pull out of his BNP Paribas Open semi-final against Roger Federer and miss the Miami Open presented by Itau because of an injury to his right knee.

Too many issues the [past] 18 months. So that's makes these [past] few weeks very, very special,” Nadal said.

On Sunday, though, as Nadal once more took a bite out of the Coupe des Mousquetaires, it was as if his 12th title in Paris was never in doubt. At Roland Garros, he is now 93-2.

Being able at this time in my career to get another victory is obviously a great satisfaction and a great happiness,” Nadal said. “I thank all the people who support me, my family, my team for their great support.”

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