"For me, the motivation to play here always is high, high as possible", Nadal said after breezing past Juan Martin del Potro 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 in Friday's semi-finals in what was his 85th win in Paris against just two defeats.
The 21-year-old Nadal became the first man since Bjorn Borg in 1980 to win three successive titles at Roland Garros.
Even a relatively one-sided semi-final against Juan Martin del Potro saw the fifth seed set up seven break point chances.
Title number nine in his ninth final for Nadal and his 14th and most recent Grand Slam success on an afternoon where temperatures nudged 30 degrees.
"You have to be focussed and keep your passion for the game".
True, he was obliterated by Nadal in the semi-final 12 months ago but Thiem has added more aggression to his natural claycourt weapons, specifically the forehand, as he displayed when stunning Nadal in the Madrid quarter-final. Stamina will also prove critical, because here's the crucial detail for Thiem: his two wins over Nadal came in three-set matches, not five.
But the Spaniard was impressive on Friday, finishing with 35 winners and 19 unforced errors to Del Potro's analysis of 20 and 32. He played some awesome aggressive tennis to get through Djokovic in the quarters, just like he played fantastic aggressive tennis to get to the quarters.
"I believe that there is chances, limited chances in your career", Nadal said.
Thiem is the only man to defeat 10-time French Open champion Nadal on clay this season.
It was the first time in three years that Nadal had dropped a set in Paris. In the fourth game Friday, del Potro clutched at his left hip after being wrong-footed by one shot from Nadal and was visited by a doctor at the next changeover.
Del Potro had required the doctor early in the first set after appearing to jar his ankle in the red clay. "When (Thiem) is dominating the point, he is very risky".
Thiem is clearly a live underdog in this match based on the amount of experience he has against Nadal on clay and the fact he's won 33.3 percent of those matches on a surface nearly nobody beats him on.
"I had a lot of break points".
Across the way at Court Suzanne Lenglen, No. 5 del Potro got distracted by a spectator right before a key double-fault, then marched over toward the stands to try to figure out who it was. "Maybe the day when you can beat Rafa was yesterday". "Nadal's capable of keeping this very aggressive, high-intensity level over an unbelievably long period of time. He deserved to win".
Nadal did not have almost as hard a time against the fifth-seeded del Potro.
World 72 Cecchinato had knocked out three seeded players to reach the semi-finals, including 12-time major victor Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals.
Cecchinato's nerves settled and the Sicilian unleashed some trademark backhand winners but Thiem had too much pace and power.
The Italian's seed-stopping streak came to an end in the third set against Thiem after 2 hours and 17 minutes. "So I can't think about that". If I had won that break, we could have played a longer match.
"When I missed that volley it wasn't a very nice feeling".
The 16-time Grand Slam champion has won the tournament 10 times.
"I knew it was going to be a tough match and I was a little bit more nervous than usual".