BARCELONA: Rafael Nadal is back on top of his mental and physical game after completing a fortnight of history-making with the Spanish king of clay adding another line for the record books on Sunday.
The world number two became the first man to win two separate events seven times, as he defeated battling compatriot David Ferrer 7-6 (7/1), 7-5 to win a seventh trophy at the Barcelona Open.
That success came seven days after he thrashed world number one Novak Djokovic for an eighth consecutive title at the Monte Carlo Masters.
At the start of the month, Nadal would not have liked his victory chances after being forced to quit before his Miami semi-final with Andy Murray due to left knee pain.
But a week or so of therapy, married to his iron will, has put the 25-year-old on course for what would be an unprecedented seventh French Open title.
His Barcelona triumph marked his seventh title in eight editions, with his only loss prior to 34 straight victories coming in 2003 to current Davis Cup captain Alex Corretja.
“I've won two extremely difficult events -- Monte Carlo and Barcelona without losing a set,” said Nadal.
“No one deserves more than David to win here, but I had the luck on the day.
“When you play your best, as I always say, it's because the opponent makes you do so; that's what David did. I was able to play some of my best tennis in the first set.
“You have to really enjoy the victories as you never know when you will have another one. I'm very happy to win but I'm only looking ahead to Madrid.”
Nadal takes a well-deserved week off before heading to the Spanish capital for the Madrid Masters staring next Sunday.
His Barcelona victory came a decade to the day since he made his winning ATP debut on his home island of Mallorca.
Now he owns 34 claycourt titles and has lost only four finals on the surface. He now has 48 career trophies overall.
“I don't know when I'll go to Madrid. But since it is played at altitude, you have to prepare for that. It's totally different from Monte Carlo, Rome and Paris,” he added.
Spaniards have dominated Barcelona, with Nadal beating Ferrer four times for the title and it was the 10th consecutive year that a pair of countrymen had met for the trophy at the Real Club de Tenis.
Ferrer was disappointed but realistic about the epic contest.
“Rafa is Rafa and he is very good. I've lost four times to him in this final, but I've always lost to one of the greats. He is a very good player and even better as a person,” he said.
“This loss is not a huge drama, it's still been a good week for me. But beating Rafa is always difficult, I wasn't able to win the key points today.
Other than that, I don't know what else to do. The more I play him, the tougher it gets.”