Thiem stayed with him for the better part of a set, before Nadal pulled away for a 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 victory and his 11th championship at Roland Garros.
No stranger to rewriting the record books along with his friendly rival, Roger Federer, here is another feat for the Spaniard: He joined Margaret Court in becoming the only tennis players in history to win the same grand slam 11 times.
Rafael Nadal “could never dream of” winning 11 French Open titles.
Austria’s Dominic Thiem strained every sinew trying to cling on to the 32-year-old Spaniard and at times even gained a precarious foothold in his first Grand Slam final.
Whatever the problem, his dominance remained and a love game took him to 4-2 before he eventially sealed victory on a fifth match point when the Austrian fired another backhand long.
It will serve as a huge boost for the 20-time Grand Slam victor if he manages to win at Stuttgart and then at Halle the following week for it will enhance his chance of claiming the position of the top seed in Wimbledon. Court claimed the last of her 11 at the Australian Open in 1973. Dominic Thiem showed over the course of this tournament that he is more than ready to take the reins.
And entering Sunday, there was at least some reason to believe that Thiem could make things interesting in the final.
Nadal came in looking slightly more vulnerable than he did past year, in which he lost only 35 games in claiming the title.
It didn’t look good early on, having lost the first set and giving up an early break in the second set.
Fair enough Thiem was demolished by Nadal in last year’s semi-final in Paris but today’s seventh seed has added more aggression and self belief to his game. His 11th title French Open deepened a Parisian habit both routine by now and unimaginable by anyone.
Sunday’s final will be Nadal’s 24th Grand Slam final, putting him second all time. I feel very lucky to all of the things that have happened to me. The two players were going for heavy, lung-busting shots. He dropped serve in the third and Nadal held for 3-1 after taking a time out because of a sore hand. The other three are Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall and Federer, all of whom have won four each.
Grass hasn’t tended to favour Nadal in recent years, and the return of a fit-again Roger Federer means he’ll likely relinquish favourite status in England.
Nadal said afterwards that he feared the worst when the cramp struck: ‘There was a tough moment in the third set, I was very very scared but that’s sport.
Understandably, Thiem looked edgy as the match begun and he managed to win only one of the first eight points as Nadal, cheered loudly when he walked on court, bristled with intent.