Rafael Nadal saw off Maxime Cressy in straight sets in Sunday’s Melbourne Summer Set final to land the 89th singles title of his career.
The world number six, playing in his first tournament in five months due to injury, has now won at least one ATP Tour trophy in every season since 2004 onwards.
American qualifier Cressy more than held his own in a first set that went the distance, even though Nadal’s quality told as he prevailed 7-6 (8-6) 6-3 at Rod Laver Arena.
That is where Nadal will be hoping to go deep in the season’s first grand slam later this month.
Both men held in an entertaining opening set and Cressy led 6-5 in the tie-break, but he squandered his set-point and Nadal hit back to grab a foothold on the match.
The 35-year-old, who won the tournament without dropping a single set, recovered from a breakdown in the second to add yet another trophy to his vast collection.
Nadal, who had not played since August before coming into this tournament and had COVID-19 last month, had not previously captured a title in Australia since 2009.
That was when he won his only Australian Open triumph to date by beating Roger Federer.
And the Spaniard looks in good shape heading into the Australian Open, which may not feature defending champion Novak Djokovic.
The Serb is awaiting the outcome of a hearing to determine whether he will be able to compete in Melbourne.
“I feel privileged and a very lucky guy to be here again,” Nadal said in his on-court interview.
“I am coming back from some challenging moments in terms of injuries, so I can’t be happier. It means a lot to be back and with a trophy in my hands.
“This court has always been very, very special for me. The Rod Laver Arena is very, very special for everyone and it is more special because of you guys. You guys are a great crowd and I can’t thank you enough.”
Elsewhere on Sunday, Gael Monfils also made a promising start to the 2022 season with a 6-4 6-4 victory over Karen Khachanov in the Adelaide International 1 final.
Khachanov battled past former US Open champion Marin Cilic in the semi-finals, but he fell short of clinching a first title in over three years.
Top seed Monfils held throughout the opening set and found a breakthrough in the 10th game, with the second set following an identical pattern.
The Frenchman did not drop a set all tournament on his way to winning his first title since February 2020 in Rotterdam.