It all boiled down to those few moments. The moments when Rafael Nadal Parera held the Coupe des Mousquetaires (French open trophy) in his hand for the unprecedent 11th time and his eyes got moist. Soon he was seen wiping tears off his eyes.

Those few moments when Nadal cried publicly told the whole story of what it all means to him.

It is a story pieced together by single minded hard work, the enduring of physical pain, dogged determination and finally, that all-consuming passion for the game.

This story culminated in those tears as Nadal, who also celebrated his 32nd Birth Day during the tournament, held the trophy aloft. Those tears told a lot about the man behind them.

How can a man who is known as a relentless, clinical fighter with a ‘no mercy and no prisoner taken’ attitude on the tennis court came to tears at the winning of his 11th French Open title?

Well, tears are common when players win a Grand Slam for the first time. Tears are also there to be seen when a player comes back from a long career threatening injury or after overcoming some personal problems and wins a Grand Slam.

But why tears when you are doing it for the 11th time. Also, when you did it the last time too in 2017 when you won it the tenth time. Which, by the way, is also a ‘never been done before’ feat. Also, when you are expected to win and thus were seeded number one too.

Those tears simply tell you why Nadal is considered, by many, the best tennis player ever. The debate of him being the best ever on ‘clay court’ has already been settled long time back.

Let us see what all he brings to the table or more appropriately, to the court.

I have never seen Nadal play even a single point in his entire career with anything less than 100 percent application. During a match many a top players are guilty of taking a few points a bit easy or carelessly. This usually happens when they are too much in front or when they are too far behind in a match. Also, players tend do take a few points at the start of a new set a bit easy having already won the previous set.

But Nadal has never been seen doing something like that. He is always coming at you. He is always trying to chase down every winner you hit. He never takes his foot off the pedal, he never relents an inch happily or dismissively. Over the years Nadal has also done innovations to his game fuelled by the desire to improve constantly. It is this attitude of his that has brought him to where he stands today. And it is this attitude of his which brings tears to his eyes when he wins.

Talent is there but it is only secondary to above mentioned attributes that Nadal has. There are many players in the circuit more talented than Nadal but they do not have the attributes he has. And that may explain the tears.

Nadal’s 11 French Open wins are five more than the next best achieved by Bjorn Borg, another legend of the game. Nadal’s first win here was way back in 2005, as a nineteen-year-old. Today he holds an 86-2, win loss record here.

No one in the sport of tennis has dominated a tournament the way Nadal has. To have a measure of his dominance one has to look at the performers in other individual sports such as boxing, swimming or athletics. But there is no such parallel in the sport of tennis.

During the course of his overall 17 Grand Slam wins, Nadal has achieved almost everything that the sport has to offer. And he has done it while contending with two all-time greats of the game, that is Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.

Federer is a true tennis great and many consider him greatest ever. But Nadal scores over Federer handsomely on a head to head count. Which is, as of now, 23-15 in favour of Nadal. The head to head in Grand Slams, which is a five-setter match unlike the maximum three sets in other tournaments and thus gives a clearer picture of your ability, Nadal again leads 9-3.

Also, Feder has never been able to threaten Nadal on his favourite surface of clay court. Nadal leads their clay court head to head count by 5-0. Federer could not, even once, take Nadal to a five setter on clay court. In fact, in one of their encounter on clay court French Open final (2008), Federer could only manage a total to four games, with Nadal winning 6-1, 6-3 and 6-0.

On the other hand, Nadal not only managed to take Federer to a five setter on Federer’s favourite Grass Court of Wimbledon (Federer has won it 8 times) but also came back the next year to beat Federer in another five setter and lift the Wimbledon for the first time. Furthermore, Nadal came back the next year and successfully defend his Wimbledon crown.

Federer came in the senior pro tennis circuit in 1998 and Nadal came in four years later. In those initial four years, Federer playing in his prime, managed to take his Grand Slam count to a good number against a comparatively weaker opposition. But once Nadal came into his own, he promptly dislodged Federer from the number one spot and also took his favourite Wimbledon title from him.

There is no doubt Federer plays a more eye pleasing and beautiful game. But Nadal is all heart, hard word and passion. These are the only factors which enabled Nadal to defeat Federer on the grass court of Wimbledon which is the least suited surface for Nadal’s game.

It is to be noted that Nadal has achieved all this facing injuries (knee, wrist and hip), the best in the game from different generations and all-time greats such as Federer and Djokovic.

This is considered the golden age of tennis. Never before has so many greats in the game have been playing together at the same time. Federer, Nadal and Novak Djokovic are all one of the ‘all-time greats.’ And Andy Murray is also almost in the same league. The level of tennis these players have shown is widely believed by experts to have never been seen before.

But for Federer, Nadal and Djokovic playing in the same era together, Murray (definitely) and Stan Wawrinka (possibly) too, presently with three Grand Slams win each, would also be into double digit Grand Slam wins.

To be a leader of such a pack makes Nadal (he is the current world number one in ATP rankings) the great that he is.