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.
In 2005, the Spaniard defeated the unheralded Mariano Puerta in the final to begin a winning monopoly at Roland Garros. Nadal's introduction included a year-by-year accounting of every time he'd already won the French Open.
He's the only player to beat Nadal on clay in the past two years - in Rome last year and in Madrid last month.
He also regained the world No 1 ranking for the first time since July 2009.
"I am just trying to keep enjoying, and keep playing until my body resist, and my happiness still high playing tennis".
Others - including USA former tennis great Billie Jean King and ex-male professional James Blake - praised Nadal's victory, which was dominant despite an injury scare with hand cramp in the latter stages of the third set.
For an instant, before it became clear that he could continue, the unthinkable seemed possible. But as Nadal's uncle, Toni Nadal, said shortly afterwards, "this is not normal".
"I felt that I was not able to move the hand, the finger", he said. "I was not [in] control of my finger".
"But for me, I believe that there are limited chances in your career".More news: Rafael Nadal Wins 11th French Open
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The situation got even more perilous after the first set.
'Of course I would love to have 20 like Roger in the future or even more, but being honest, is something that is not in my mind. Some paying customers at Philippe Chatrier or watching from a distance may have shared that sentiment - a predictable yearning for a close, competitive encounter.
Nadal finished with 24 unforced errors compared to Thiem's 42, and he racked up a 16-8 advantage in net points.
"It's wonderful, I can't describe my feelings because it's not even a dream to win here 11 times", said an emotional Nadal after the final. It is his most one-sided final win since allowing Federer just four games in the 2008 final.
Nadal broke Argentinian Guillermo Vilas's 29-year record of 53 consecutive clay-court match victories by winning his first-round match at the 2006 French Open. He took the biggest of big cuts on groundstrokes, his feet leaving the ground as he threw his whole body into them, as if the very outcome - not of any individual point, but the whole shebang - depended on the strength of that one whip of his white racket. The Spaniard also won the title without losing a set, becoming the third man to do so in the Open era after Ilie Nastase and Borg.
Though the sports are so different, Nadal's dominance in the past two weeks - and stretching back to his US Open title in 2017 - bring to mind how sensational LeBron James has been for the Cleveland Cavaliers this season. 'I can't be always thinking of more.
"Of course I have ambition". I have passion for what I am doing.
"I've never been insane about this kind of stuff".