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.
Assuming he can add a few more wrinkles to his game and channel a bit more discipline on the Grand Slam stage, it's likely just a matter of time before Thiem falls to the clay at Court Philippe-Chatrier to revel in personal triumph. And of course, with it being on clay, Nadal is an overwhelming favorite.
And Nadal has admitted he will retire once he stops enjoying himself on the tour. In fact, plenty would claim him top-three at this point. Nadal won at Roland-Garros and took the US Open trophy in 2017.
Sunday's victory guaranteed that he will remain No. 1 in the rankings. Some of the moves and shots he displayed against del Poltro were throwbacks to 2010 and 2011.
Thiem was considered the stiffest test for Nadal at the French Open and understandably so. When he first halted play, Nadal removed that tape, which he said let his circulation improve.
Unlike past year - when those first few games realistically settled things - Thiem bounced back, breaking straight away.
Nadal plans to return to Paris in 2019 and try and clinch a 12th title at Roland Garros. In this tournament, Nadal's only lost one set.
There was still fight in Thiem, though, and he had a break point when Nadal served at 4-2 ― a game in which the Spaniard was warned for taking too long to serve. At this point, tennis enthusiasts would likely welcome it - but might just as well appreciate Nadal if he were to overpower his way to another Coupe des Mousquetaires piece of hardware. "Bravo. To me it's been still great two weeks".
The number of Grand Slam singles titles now held by Nadal, who is second on the all-time list among men in the Open Era, behind Federer (20), and ahead of Pete Sampras (14), Djokovic and Roy Emerson (12 each). "If Nadal gives him opportunities, he should be confident enough to go for the kill", Becker pointed out. It is as simple as it is hard: Thiem will likely need the best match of his life to earn his first major tennis title. He beat Nadal in Rome last year and again in Madrid this year - to also end his streak of consecutive sets won on the surface.
Nadal struck 26 winners to Thiem's 34 yet made only 24 unforced errors to Thiem's 42, with "unforced errors" a relative term in Nadal Roland Garros matches.
Either Federer or Nadal has captured each of the last six Grand Slam championships.
Thiem however was able to hold serve regularly and had a chance to get back on serve but his break chance at 2-4 evaporated when Nadal hit a sublime drop shot, then passing shot.
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