- ATP Tour
Nadal still in pain but buoyed by 'one of my best finals'
Rafael Nadal believes he played one of his greatest ever finals on clay during his recent demolition of David Ferrer at the Mexico Open.
Nadal, a seven-time champion at the French Open, defeated his compatriot 6-0 6-2 last weekend in Acapulco, securing his first tour title since returning to tennis after a seven-month absence through injury.
While he conceded that he still feels some pain in his knee, the 26-year-old insisted he is once again able to play with "no limitations", hailing his performance in the final against Ferrer as one of the greatest of his career.
"I played one of the best finals ever on clay," Nadal told ESPN. "It was unexpected. I did not think I could play at that level in that final, but I did. I was very happy."
He added: "I started to move - with some pain, but that is not a problem. I think playing with pain is normal for athletes. But I had the chance to play with no limitations."
Nadal revealed that he had endured some tough times during his long absence from the professional circuit, but believes the enforced absence has helped him to develop an improved state of mind, and make him appreciate what it means to play tennis for a living.
"I said before, I think the worst feeling is I don't know when i will be back," Nadal said, when asked about his rehabilitation. "I tried different treatments - some seemed to work at the beginning, but then they didn't work.
"You start a treatment and make a calendar [of your return], but then at the end of the month you try [to play] and feel you are the same position as the month before. That is the worst."
He continued: "When you are out and you come back, every moment is special. When you are playing every week in big stadiums in front of a full crowd - you lost that feeling. It's a new situation for me, but it is one I will enjoy I think because I am fresh mentally and I really want to play.
"I am very excited to be back on the tour."
During his absence, the topic of potential drug usage on the ATP Tour has become an increasingly controversial topic of discussion. Nadal is confident his rivals are not using performance-enhancing substances.
"I have to think, and really believe, our sport is very clean," he said. "As an Olympic sport, which we are, it is important to be sure your opponent is as clean as you are. The sport needs a very clean image."