By Julien Pretot
PARIS (Reuters) - Having achieved the glittering distinction of becoming the only man to win eight singles titles at the same grand slam tournament, French Open champion Rafa Nadal was soon dreaming of another priceless thing on Sunday - to be left alone.
A 6-3 6-2 6-3 victory over fellow Spaniard David Ferrer in the final extended his record at Roland Garros but the softly spoken Nadal was hoping to avoid any fuss on his return to his homeland.
"The best present they give me is to leave me alone, to give me peace, to let me get back to my real, normal life," he told a news conference.
"Because when you leave a big event like this one, a big tournament like this one, you have no real life, like all players. I can't be a guy of my age. So being left alone, this is priceless."
Sitting on his chair as he watched Ferrer collect the runner-up's silver platter, Nadal looked like an emperor but he is not expecting too much of a fanfare when he lands at the airport in Mallorca, where he lives.
"No, honestly, I don't think so. Maybe some of my friends, some of your friends from the press, but people down there are not doing that. I mean, they wouldn't meet me at the airport," the 27-year-old said.
"It's true I like feeling that people love me. It's a very special feeling. But I don't need them to come to the airport to know that they like me.
"I am fortunate. Many people demonstrate their friendship to me each day, and this is the most important."
His wish to avoid the limelight is unlikely to be heard after he took another step towards greatness in an authoritative performance against fourth seed Ferrer that showed that behind the unassuming personality lies a fierce competitor.
"I love the game. I love the sport. I understand the sport only one way. The sport without a goal is stupid," he said with a smile.
"That's my feeling. If I go and play in any sport and I don't try my best, I don't like to do it. Better I do another thing.
"The only way to understand the sport for me is try to do as good as possible, try to improve in every moment, play with the full passion that you have."
Nadal now heads to Wimbledon, where he will be going for a third title after triumphs in 2008 and 2010.
The Spaniard, who has won 12 grand slam titles, could also hope to chase the world number one spot by the end of the year although he said it was too soon to be aiming for Roger Federer's record of 17 majors.
"Winning 17 grand slam titles, that's miles away from me. I'm not even thinking about it," the world number four said.
"Of course everyone prefers to be number one than three or four. But in the morning I didn't get up any happier when I was number one than when I was number two."
(Editing by Sonia Oxley)