By Julien Pretot
The 25-year-old Nadal clawed back from the brink in a five-set thriller against American John Isner and recovered from a sticky start to beat old rival Roger Federer 7-5 7-6 5-7 6-1 in the final and equal Bjorn Borg's record.
"Rafael was nervous," his uncle and coach Toni Nadal told reporters.
"The real Rafa is both the Rafa who wins and the Rafa who plays well and the Rafa who suffers and doesn't play that well," Rafa Nadal told a news conference.
"You have to face this situation. You also have a Rafa that plays very well and wins. These two Rafas are real Rafas.
"The most positive thing is that I was capable of reversing situations and keeping a good attitude in order to reverse the situation."
It did not happen without pain and fear.
Nadal went 5-2 down in the opening set on Sunday as he struggled to find his range, but after Federer had a drop shot ruled just wide, the Spaniard hit his stride to win seven games in a row and take charge of the match.
The joy of victory obviously took more time to sink in than three years ago, when he dropped only 41 games throughout the fortnight.
"It's difficult to say I am not satisfied with this one, because to win a tournament like this you have to be playing really well," said Nadal.
"For example, in 2008 I think I played better than ever, but I finished the tournament and I didn't feel that I won Roland Garros because I won in three sets.
"When you come back after a tough situation, it makes the tournaments and the victories more special for sure."
(Editing by Ed Osmond)