It was Thiem's first set win on clay against Nadal in 10 attempts, and it marked only the second time Nadal has ever lost a second set at the French Open, the first since 2007. In the victory, Nadal won 68 percent of his first serve points and 56 percent of his second serve points.
With the victory, Nadal now has more Grand Slam wins at the French Open alone than nearly any other player has everywhere - more than Borg, more than Laver, more than Connors and Agassi and McEnroe.
Rafael Nadal pulled away in what had suddenly become a tight final to beat Dominic Thiem 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 Sunday for his record-extending 12th French Open championship.More news: Xbox Scarlet E3 Reveal Teased in Microsoft E3 Promo
"It was an awesome match, my first five-set match at Roland Garros", Thiem said. Resuming at one set all, with Thiem leading 3-1, Djokovic was quickly back on track, levelling at 4-4.
Djokovic could have been lining up on the opposite half this afternoon had it not been for the brilliance of Thiem.
That left Nadal serving for the opening set, which he clinched when Thiem dragged a backhand wide on the second set point.
On a third match point, Thiem broke the 32 year-old Serb with a forehand victor after looking like he had thrown victory away at 5-4.More news: Chris Pratt & Katherine Schwarzenegger Are Married!
Rafael Nadal admits the prospect of winning a 12th Roland Garros title and 18th major on Sunday would have once just seemed liked an "incredible" dream in a career so often at the mercy of a succession of morale-sapping injuries.
These two have played 12 times and Nadal has won eight of those matches.
But whether Thiem can carry forward his momentum from his first ATP Masters 1000 title at Indian Wells, the tier of the tournament below the Grand Slams, is there to be seen.
"The first thing I want to say is congrats to Dominic and sorry because he deserves it too", said the 33-year-old Nadal.More news: Chelsea file appeal against transfer ban to CAS - full statement revealed
"To play Rafa here on this court is always the ultimate challenge, one of the toughest challenges in sports", said Thiem.