Rafael Nadal said winning his first Grand Slam title on hard courts was extra special after he beat Roger Federer at the Australian Open.
The Spaniard won a sensational final 7-5 3-6 7-6 (7-3) 3-6 6-2 to add the Australian title to four wins at the French Open and one at Wimbledon.
“It’s a dream to win here, a Grand Slam on a hard court,” said the 22-year-old world number one.
“I worked very hard all my life to improve my tennis outside of clay.”
Federer had been trying to match Pete Sampras’s all-time record of 14 Grand Slam victories, and Nadal had sympathy for his beaten opponent.
“I’m sorry it was a tough moment for Roger,” he said. “I know how tough it must be there in an important situation for him.
“But, you know, he’s a great champion. He’s the best. And he’s, for sure, a very important person for our sport.”
Nadal would not be drawn on whether he felt he could one day threaten the mark of 14 Grand Slam titles.
“I’m happy with my six,” he said. “For sure I’m going to continue trying my best every day to improve my tennis and try to continue winning matches and titles.”
After receiving the trophy from Rod Laver, Nadal said that the Australian’s achievement of winning calendar Grand Slams in 1962 and 1969 meant he had a strong claim to be the best of all time.
“My uncle always told me Rod Laver was the best because he won two times the Grand Slam, the whole Grand Slam, the four in a row, and for like six or seven years he didn’t play, so for that reason he can be.”
After the match Federer said that he felt Nadal always had an advantage being a left-hander, and the Spaniard admitted: “I think to play against Roger it’s a little bit easier if you are lefty, because if you are a righty it’s very tough to play against his forehand all the time.”
Nadal said that the treatment he had in the closing stages was for tight quadriceps and hamstrings, but he felt the match hinged on his being “more solid” in the fifth set.
Federer admitted that his serve had let him down as he made just 52% of first serves across the whole match, and fell considerably lower at one stage.
“I don’t think I served particularly well, unfortunately, and I think that was the key to the match in the end.
“I won a set against Rafa serving 30% first serves. I mean, it’s makeable. I got a great second serve. Very reliable normally.
“I hit some stupid double faults, but that’s going to happen in a five-set match usually.
“I tried to kind of get the grip on my serve but never really found the rhythm, which was a pity, but it happens.”
The Swiss, 27, was disappointed with his efforts as he was broken twice in the final set.
“I love this game,” he said. “It means the world to me, so it hurts when you lose.
“In a fifth set, anything can happen. That’s the problem. Not usually the better player always wins. Just a matter of momentum sometimes.
“Maybe I should have never been there in the first place. But I think he played well. I definitely played a terrible fifth set. I kind of handed it over to him.
“No doubt he’s one of the tougher guys out there for a fifth set – no doubt.”
Federer was very emotional immediately after the match and struggled to complete his runner-up speech.
“This is one of the matches in my career where I feel like I could have or should have won.
“You can’t go through your whole life as a tennis player taking every victory that’s out there. You’ve got to live with those.
“But they hurt even more like if you’re that close, like at Wimbledon or like here at the Australian Open, so that’s what’s tough about it. But I have no regrets so it’s alright.”
And asked if he still believed he could beat Nadal, the Swiss replied: “For sure.”