MADRID (AFP) - Rafael Nadal sealed his fifth title in seven tournaments since returning from a seven-month injury layoff as he claimed a third Madrid Masters title with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Stanislas Wawrinka on Sunday.
Nadal now has 55 career titles with 40 coming on clay, an astonishing record that prompted Wawrinka to describe the Spaniard as a "killer" on clay courts.
Nadal, who holds a 9-0 career record over Switzerland's Wawrinka, rolled through the first set thanks to two early breaks in little over half an hour.
And after a little more resistance from Wawrinka in the second, Nadal broke again to go ahead 4-3 before serving out to claim his 23rd Masters Series title.
"I played my best match of the week in the final," said Nadal, who looks set to be the overwhelming favourite for a record eighth French Open.
"I started very aggressively and my movement was very good. I managed to get the double break and that is almost the set, especially here in Madrid with the altitude where the service does more damage.
"Stan is a player that plays with very good angles so at a tactical level I played very well and obviously tennis-wise it was very good as I suffered very little on my own serve."
The Spaniard believes his performances towards the end of the week are the best he has produced on the European clay this year and he is now targeting the defence of his title at the Rome Masters next week.
"Of the latest tournaments, for sure that is the best one that I have played. My forehand has worked at the highest level. I also played very well in Acapulco and Indian Wells, but since I returned to Europe these last two matches is the level I am aspiring to.
"The confidence from winning here is big, especially the way I won, playing good tennis.
"I need to adapt to playing to slower conditions than here in Rome and I have to do it with right concentration from tomorrow and then for first match from Wednesday."
Wawrinka, meanwhile, lamented not being able to be at his best physically after three gruelling three set matches against Grigor Dimitrov, Jo-Wilfred Tsonga and Tomas Berdych in the last three days.
"I think he started really well. For sure I was not 100% physically and mentally and even if I am feeling completely fresh it is so difficult, so if you are not then he completely kills you," admitted the Swiss.
"He was always dictating the points and against him if you are not 100 per cent then it is impossible.
"I was not injured, just tired from the last two weeks. In the second set I tried to make it more difficult and make him come the net a bit earlier in the point, but I think he was just too difficult and good for me today."
The world number five started with intent as he broke Wawrinka in his opening service game and was then gifted a second break when the world number 15 double faulted at break point down in the third game.
And Nadal went onto serve out the first set with little difficulty 6-2.
Wawrinka, who won the title in Portugal last weekend, did manage to keep the second set on serve early and even saved three break points to move 3-2 in front.
However, he still couldn't pressure the Nadal serve as the 11-time Grand Slam champion wasn't even forced to face a break point in the whole match, and in Wawrinka's next service game another double fault gave Nadal a 4-3 lead.
And much to the home crowd's delight, Nadal served it out to extend his remarkable record to 32-2 since returning from his tendinitis injury in February.