He wasn't really that close. It was a very long shot as soon as we knew Nadal was the final opponent: you didn't expect sliced or low power flat BHs to get it done vs Nadal, did you? It never felt that he was going to win even a break up in the second set, it was just a matter of Nadal finding some better length and the BH would crack.
Anyway, the most important about this tournament isn't the result, but the way he played - namely the variety he added to his game - and the mental strength/fighting spirit he showed. If he keeps this up and fully heals that left wrist, only great things can come of it. But yeah, people shouldn't really see this as a missed chance at all, more like JMDP creating a chance to win an event out of nowhere when he had really no right too, totally outsmarted the two best HC players of the moment.
Sorry but after winning that first set and up a break in the second I had great hopes. So yes a long shot after playing 2 days in a row and all the exhaustion that went with it. My hope is that he would tank Nadal's games but try to hold his own and win the second set. However I knew it was over the moment Nadal broke back to even it out at 3 all. Defining moment and all that.
And personally I think he deserved to win this title. This is not to distract from Nadal who stepped up and figured out what to do as the great champion and fighter that he is. I do agree that this was a defining moment for JM though.