Thiem, now 24 and ranked a career-high No. 7 following his first major final, said he enjoyed seeing Nadal thundering away from the comfort of his childhood couch far more than trying to field the lightning bolts coming at him across the net Sunday.
Nadal remained implacable in the homestretch, intent on ignoring his temporarily impaired hand, outracing the rainclouds that hovered close and low but didn't erupt, and trying to outrun, outhit and outwit a player who was 11 years old when he won his first title here in 2005.
The king of clay has his first major of 2018 and will be eager to add a second when the Grand Slam calendar turns to Wimbledon in July, although it's been eight years since he last made the final at SW19.
"I want to say well played to Dominic". His only two defeats on Parisian Clay came to Robin Soderling of Sweden in 2009 in the round of 16 and next in 2015 against Novak Djokovic in the quarter-final. At the following changeover, Nadal was given a salt pill by a doctor and had his left forearm massaged by a trainer.
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.
Australian tennis legend Ken Rosewall told the crowd he would have liked to see a few more sets.
Thiem beat Nadal on clay twice, including last month in Madrid that ended Nadal's 21-match winning streak on clay and his streak of 50 straight sets won on his favorite surface. When a return went long on a fifth match point, Nadal raised his arms in joy.
Beaten French Open finalist Dominic Thiem believes this won't be his only shot at Grand Slam glory. The Austrian followed that point up with three consecutive errors, and the first set went to the Spaniard. Only Thiem's 2016 victory over Nadal in Buenos Aires was a success on non-quick clay.
Thiem was under the cosh, saving four break points in the first game of the third set before Nadal inevitably broke for 2-1.
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.
The second set was wrapped up as Thiem sent a backhand into the tramlines but the Austrian refused to capitulate and managed to save four break chances in the opening game of the third. After guzzling water during his visit from the doctor, Nadal was back to playing his unmistakable brand of almost unbeatable clay-court tennis.