Rafael Nadal says he doubted whether he could win 2020 French Open

Rafael Nadal
Nadal won the French Open without dropping a set for a fourth time

On paper Rafael Nadal winning a 13th French Open title was entirely predictable. In truth, it was anything but.

"Honestly, one month and a half ago, if you told me you're going to have this trophy, I would say, 'this year will probably be too difficult'," the Spaniard said after emphatically beating great rival Novak Djokovic in Sunday's final.

A lack of preparation, a change to a heavier brand of tennis balls and the cool, damp autumn conditions of the rescheduled tournament may not sound significant but they were supposed to make the Spaniard vulnerable at a tournament he had only lost twice in 16 years.

Many had him as second favourite for Sunday's final. They suggested he would struggle without the dry, hot conditions that suit his spin-heavy game.

Instead, he dismantled Djokovic 6-0 6-2 7-5 with a clinical performance, which he described as one of his favourites in his incredible Roland Garros career.

"I played at an amazing level of tennis," Nadal said. "For two sets and a half I played great.

"It is impossible to have this score against him [Djokovic] without playing great.

"The personal satisfaction is big because, even if I played an amazing match, the conditions are not the conditions that I would choose to play an event like this."

World number one Djokovic, whose only previous defeat in 2020 came when he was disqualified at the US Open, called Nadal's performance "perfect", adding he was "outplayed by the better player".

"He was not missing at all and getting every ball back, just playing tactically great," the Serb said.

"I felt well throughout the entire tournament. I thought I was in a great form.

"Certainly, I could have played better, especially in the first two sets, but he did surprise me with the way he was playing, the quality of tennis he was producing.

"He played a perfect match, especially in the first two sets."

Nadal opted against competing at last month's US Open. His warm-up for Paris included just one tournament, the Italian Open, where he suffered a surprise defeat by Diego Schwartzman in the quarter-finals.

It was the first time he had arrived at the French Open having failed to win a clay-court tournament in the build-up.

"Doubts are part of life," Nadal said. "For me, doubts are good because it means that you don't consider yourself too good.

"I was under doubt before the match, yes. But it's true that my level of confidence and tennis have been improving every single day."

The victory meant Nadal equalled Roger Federer's men's record of 20 Grand Slam titles, although the Spaniard played down the feat's significance.

He looked close to tears as, while wearing a face mask during a low-key presentation ceremony, he raised the tournament trophy in front of the 1,000 spectators allowed inside Court Philippe Chatrier in yet another reminder of why this year's event was so different.

Nadal said winning again at Roland Garros "means everything" but he was unable to celebrate as usual because of the difficulties the world faces fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

"I want to send a message to everyone around the world," he said in his post-match interview.

"We are facing one of the worst moments that we remember facing in this world, fighting against this virus.

"Keep going, stay positive. We will get through this and we will beat the virus soon."

The disruption the virus has caused to the tennis calendar meant Nadal was non-committal when asked whether he would compete at the season-ending ATP Finals in London next month - a tournament he has never won - or January's Australian Open.

"I don't know what I am going to do after here," he said. "I can't tell you if I am going to keep playing or not keep playing for the next couple of months."

The manner of his victory ensured he will be the favourite to secured a 14th title when the French Open begins again in less than eight months' time.

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal at trophy presentation
Djokovic had only lost one match this year - his disqualification against Pablo Carreno Busta at the US Open