Monte Carlo: Rafael Nadal pronounced himself "a lucky guy" after sweeping to a seventh straight title at the Monte Carlo Masters as he dispatched fellow Spaniard David Ferrer 6-4, 7-5 on Sunday.
"It would have been impossible to imagine a few years ago winning seven titles here," Nadal said after a victory in 2 hours 16 minutes, his 12th of 16 against his good friend. "I'm a lucky guy to have done this by age 24.
"Thanks so much to the life, I'm really enjoying everything."
Nadal faced a few minor challenges on court in postcard-perfect conditions with a sleek, discreet mega-yacht tethered just offshore at the Mediterranean playground.
But it's the clay of the Country club that is officially declared the backyard of Nadal, only man in tennis history to win any event six times - let alone seven.
"This was a very important win for me," said the somewhat disbelieving champion, who has once again embarked on the road to Roland Garros next month in the best possible way.
"I don't think about defending points from previous years, only about playing well. I just keep trying to improve every day, train humbly and improve. Winning this week was so important."
Nadal was 24 hours removed from his three-hour struggle with an injured Andy Murray, who played their three-set epic on a right elbow injected with pain-killing cortisone.
Murray and his team drove the 600 kilometers to Barcelona on Sunday where he will have a medical visit and decide over the next few days if he can play in the ATP event as second seed behind Nadal.
Nadal has ruled at Monte Carlo since losing his only match in the principality in his 2003 debut year as a 16-year-old. He has now won 37 straight Monte Carlo matches with a 39-1 record at the tournament.
Sunday's win marked the 44th career trophy for Spain's top player, who now owns a record 19 titles at the Masters 1000 level and has beaten compatriots in the nine of the all-Spanish finals he has played.
Nadal won a 30th clay court trophy, tying him for third place in the post-1968 Open era with Bjorn Borg and Spain's Manuel Orantes. The victory was revenge for Ferrer's straight-sets win over Nadal in an Australian Open quarter-final three months ago.
Nadal and Ferrer duelled as familiar opponents in a 74-minute opening set, with a run of three straight breaks putting Nadal in 3-2 command. The world number one used his edge to take the opener and break for 2-1 early in the second.
But a few errors crept in as Nadal double-faulted and fired an errant backhand to hand the break back for 4-all. That amounted to little as the king of clay broke again for 6-5 and closed it out on his second match point a game later from a Ferrer volley gone wrong.
Nadal struck 22 winners on the afternoon with 30 unforced errors, breaking on four of 11 chances.