Rafael Nadal described his “joy” at winning a record 10th French Open after beating Swiss third seed Stan Wawrinka in the final.
The Spaniard, 31, won 6-2 6-3 6-1 to secure ‘La Decima’ at Roland Garros, and his 15th major title.
Nadal – who won without dropping a set in the tournament for the third time – said he could not have imagined such success when he first won 12 years ago.
He said: “In 2005, I thought in 2017 I’d be fishing on my boat in Mallorca.”
Nadal added: “I didn’t really think I’d have such a long career and win so many tournaments.”
Nadal swept through the final in two hours and five minutes to extend his all-time lead at Roland Garros, with 10 titles to Bjorn Borg’s six in the open era.
He said: “This tournament has been very special to me, and it’s true that it is unprecedented.
“Trust me, I’m very happy that I’m the one who did it.
“If I can do it, someone else can do it.
“But you need the right circumstances, the right ingredients to win 10 French Open titles.
“I don’t know if I will ever get to meet the player who will do better than I did.”
The best Nadal has ever played – Wawrinka
Nadal has struggled for form and fitness since his last Grand Slam title at the French Open three years ago, but has enjoyed a resurgence this year.
Wawrinka had been expected to pose the first serious examination of Nadal’s new-found confidence but he was brushed aside like the previous six opponents.
“For sure he’s playing the best he’s ever played,” said the Swiss.
“But not only here. I think since the beginning of the year, you can see he’s playing more aggressive, staying more close from the line.
“That’s clearly the best he ever played. That’s why he’s winning so much again.”
Nadal’s forehand has been one of the great tennis strokes for over a decade, but his backhand has grown in potency – he added 36 backhand winners to 90 forehands at Roland Garros this year.
His game has also become more attacking over time.
The Spaniard won 60% of his points in under four strokes, 72% of his first-serve points and a stunning 74% behind his second serve.
Famously slow between points, Nadal moved forward at every opportunity once the action began and, comfortably finishing points at the net, made it through each match at Roland Garros after an average one hour and 44 minutes.
Wawrinka, on the other hand, needed two-and-a-half hours per match.
“If you play Rafa, if you’re not completely free with what you think and what you’re going to do, and not completely relaxed the way you’re going to play, you have no chance,” said the Swiss.
Setting records in his teens, 20s and 30s
Nadal has been setting records since he burst on to the Tour as a 15-year-old, but 16 years on he shows no sign of stopping.
Only Margaret Court has won more titles at a single Grand Slam tournament, and seven of her 11 Australian Open wins came before tennis turned professional.
Martina Navratilova won Wimbledon nine times, while Federer and Pete Sampras are among Nadal’s closest male challengers with seven victories in SW19.
Nadal becomes the third man to win a Grand Slam title in his teens, his 20s and his 30s, following Ken Rosewall and Sampras, and appears capable of adding more.
In terms of the French Open, Nadal narrowly failed to match Bjorn Borg’s astonishing 1978 tournament, during which the Swede lost just 32 games – Nadal’s total of 35 included a quarter-final that lasted only 10 games as opponent Pablo Correno Busta retired.
However, the Spaniard’s 10 titles and 79-2 match record tower over Borg’s tally of six titles and 49-2 record.
Winning farewell for ‘Uncle Toni’
There were emotional scenes on Philippe Chatrier Court as Nadal’s coach and uncle, Toni, was asked to take part in the trophy ceremony.
The 56-year-old has coached Nadal since childhood, taking the decision to change his naturally right-handed nephew into a left-handed tennis player.
He has been present in the player box for each of his nephew’s 10 victories in Paris, but will retire from life on the Tour at the end of 2017 to run Nadal’s academy in Majorca.
“For me it’s unbelievable,” Toni Nadal told Roland Garros Live.
“We are lucky in this life because we receive so much. I never thought that my nephew can win 10 times he in Roland Garros. It’s unbelievable.
“It’s the last for me as a coach but I hope I can see my nephew playing many more times here.”
Toni Nadal’s role as head coach will be taken by Carlos Moya, the 1998 French Open champion who joined the team in December.
Moya, 40, has seen his new charge reach the Australian Open final, losing to Federer, and now reclaim his French Open title.
“Every match in this tournament has been better than the one before, so I think it’s been a perfect tournament for us,” said Moya.
Russell Fuller, BBC tennis correspondent:
Nadal lost just 35 games in seven matches at Roland Garros: his aura has been well and truly restored to its former glory.
He has 10 titles in Paris and on the evidence of the past fortnight could make it a round dozen if he can avoid the injuries which have so often held him back.
He is back within three Grand Slam titles of Roger Federer – both clearly have the power to add to their tally – and the world number one position could be his by the end of Wimbledon.
He is closing in on Andy Murray, who has a mountain of points to defend on the grass.
‘Who’s going to stop him?’ – expert analysis on BBC Radio 5 live
Former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash: “I’m totally shocked to see him do it. I didn’t think I’d see him come back to win another Slam, let alone emphatically.
“You can’t look too far ahead in the world of sport but who’s going to stop him? He could get another couple of French Open titles.
“Perhaps he can go into the grass court season with nothing to lose. Andy Murray at his best will give him a great run but if Rafa comes up and starts whipping the balls all over the place like he has here, he’ll be really dangerous.”
Three-time French Open winner Mats Wilander: “Mike Tyson had a gameplan until he got punched in the mouth and that’s what happens when you play Nadal. You get out there and realise ‘hold on a second, I don’t even know how to win points, let alone sets’.
“Four games he dropped at most – in any match and any set. That’s incredible.
“There are so many improvements to his game that he’s a better player now than he was when he won Wimbledon two times before.”
French Open doubles finalist Fabrice Santoro on playing against Nadal: “You have someone over the other side of the net who is so strong physically, who hits the ball that hard, and plays every single point like a match point. We are not talking about winning a match, set or a game. Winning one point is difficult.”
Social media reaction
Magnus Norman, Stan Wawrinka’s coach and 2000 French Open runner-up: Simply too good. Congrats to Rafa and his team. Amazing 10 Roland Garros.
Donna Vekic, WTA player and Stan Wawrinka’s girlfriend: Absolutely insane Rafael Nadal congrats!!! #10 Proud of you Stan Wawrinka
Fernando Verdasco, Spanish former world number seven: Can someone describe with words what Rafael Nadal achieved today?
Tommy Haas, German former world number two: I don’t think many can put it into words and I don’t think many understand this accomplishment, truly incredible. Congrats, Champ10n.
Mardy Fish, American former top 10 player: It is so cool to have played in the era of Federer and Nadal. The two greatest players of all time in the same era. Amazing. Congrats Rafa.
Annabel Croft, former British number one: Huge congratulations to Rafael Nadal winning his 10th Roland Garros title! One of the greatest sporting achievements ever!
Judy Murray, Britain’s Fed Cup captain and mother of three-time Slam winner Andy: Amazing job. Amazing commitment. Amazing family. Well done Toni and Rafa.