The younger challengers struggle to land a punch, and the last six men's Grand Slam titles have now gone in the sequence of Federer-Nadal-Federer-Nadal-Federer-Nadal.
"But having said that Rafa is 32 now, although not that he looks weaker or older, but throughout this tournament he has not looked his very best". It was his best performance of the fortnight, as Nadal confirmed on court, just when he needed it most. The trainer massaged Nadal's forearms twice but it was still not good enough to halt the Spaniard and the job was complete when Thiem's backhand sailed long.
Nadal, Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray - the so-called Big Four - have dominated the men's game to such a degree that Thiem is only the second player now younger than 28 to have reached a major singles final.
"It's awesome now, I can't describe my feelings", a sweat-soaked Nadal told the crowd.
The 21-year-old became the first man since Bjorn Borg in 1980 to win three successive titles at Roland Garros.
If there were any reason for a bit of intrigue entering Sunday, it was this: Thiem beat Nadal on red clay at Rome in May 2017 and again at Madrid last month.
Nadal wept after being handed the trophy by Australian legend Ken Rosewall - who won the inaugural French Open in 1968.
Injuries pockmarked Nadal's early season and spawned doubt as he prepared to start the clay-court season that has traditionally served as a long taxi-way for Paris. His emotions were on show as he shed a few tears when the national anthem of Spain was played in his honour for the 11th time, an obvious sign of what this tournament means to him. The Austrian won just one of the first nine points as Nadal immediately broke for 2-0. But this will be the first time they've met in a Grand Slam final.
Thiem was still on the back foot in the third set, being forced to save four break points in the first game.
In a 10-minute second game of the second set, Thiem suffered more trauma. After guzzling water during his visit from the doctor, Nadal was back to playing his unmistakable brand of almost unbeatable clay-court tennis.
But Thiem, unusually standing up to Nadal's first serve, forced two break points in the next game and converted the second with a flashing forehand into the right corner.