French Open: Rafael Nadal 'honoured' to match Borg feat
Rafael Nadal said he is honoured to be compared to Bjorn Borg after equalling the Swede's record of six French Open titles with victory over Roger Federer.
Nadal won 7-5 7-6 (7-3) 5-7 6-1 to claim his 10th Grand Slam and retain the world number one ranking.
"It's very special to equal the six French Opens of Bjorn Borg - it's an honour to be compared to Borg," stated the 25-year-old Spaniard.
"But the most important thing is to win Roland Garros."
Nadal's 10 titles consist of six French Opens, two Wimbledons, one US Open and one Australian Open.
Federer, 29, still leads the way with 16 majors, but with Nadal almost five years younger than the Swiss, expectations are high that the Spaniard will pass that total.
However, he was keen to play down the hype, adding: "I'm not the best player in the history of tennis but I'm amongst the best and that's enough for me."
Nadal's coach and uncle Toni Nadal said Sunday's win was the most difficult of all his nephew's triumphs in Paris after he struggled for fluency in the opening week.
Nadal needed five sets to see off John Isner of the United States in the first round in Paris and complained that he did not feel as if he was playing well enough to win the tournament.
"It was the most complicated," commented Toni. "He played really badly in the first three rounds. I said to him: 'You won't win playing at this level, you must be more relaxed'. And I told him that winning or losing would change nothing.
"It was important for Roger to try to win another Grand Slam and for us it was crucial that Rafa did not lose as he wouldn't then be the best player on clay.
"Winning Roland Garros is an indication that 2011 is a good year. It'll give him peace of mind for what's ahead. If he loses at Wimbledon, we will always have the French Open."
Nadal won the 2010 tournament without dropping a set but this year it was not until his quarter-final success against Robin Soderling that he came close to hitting top form.
He then secured a straight-sets victory over Britain's Andy Murray in the semi-finals and proved too strong for Federer in the showpiece.
"To win this kind of title is always satisfying," explained Nadal. "But sometimes when you fight a lot to win, when you try your best in every moment to change the situation, it makes the title more special.
"For example, in 2008 I think I played better than ever, but I finished the tournament and I didn't feel that I won Roland Garros because I won in three sets every round."
Nadal rallied from 5-2 down to take the opening set and overcame a fightback from Federer to snatch the second on a tie-break.
A dramatic late surge enabled Federer to pick up the third set but Nadal saved three break points in game one of the fourth before breaking twice en route to a thrilling triumph.
"He was a little bit unlucky in the first set, and after that he came back fantastically well in the second," Nadal continued.
"In the third I had 4-2 but I think he played very, very well from that moment to the beginning of the fourth. When Roger plays like this, the opponent cannot do anything sometimes.
"I just waited for my moment, tried to be there all the time, tried to put him in difficult situations. Saving the 0-40 [in game one of the fourth set] was very important for me. That was a big turning point of the match."
Federer, contesting a Grand Slam final for the first time since the 2010 Australian Open, was pleased with his display but knew things could have turned out much better.
"I don't have huge complaints but obviously there were some missed opportunities, because you'll always have plenty against him on clay. So if you lose, you always look at those," reflected the Swiss.
"I'm the one that's playing with smaller margins, so obviously I'm always going to go through a few more ups and downs, whereas Rafa is content doing the one thing for the entire time.
"So it's always me who's going to dictate play and decide how the outcome is going to be. If I play well, I will most likely win. If I'm not playing so well, that's when he wins.
"But I thought Rafa played well. I think he dug deep to come back in the first set and get himself into the match. And also the second set.
"It was tough all the way through. I thought we played at a very high level and I was pretty happy with the way I played today.
"Overall I'm very happy about the tournament. Obviously you should be disappointed after losing in a Grand Slam final. I feel that a little bit today."
Federer, who ended Novak Djokovic's six-month winning streak to reach the final, said he was "feeling better physically than I have in a long time."
Having played some of his best tennis during the last fortnight, Federer now turns his attention to Wimbledon, where he has lifted the title on six occasions.
"That's obviously the huge priority right now, to win Wimbledon in a few weeks' time," he said. "That's always, for me, the sort of number one goal in the season."