Two breaks later Nadal was in a familiar position, serving for the title, and when another Thiem forehand dropped long, his arms were raised in celebration, yet again.
The 32-year-old Spaniard is only the second player to hold the record, after Margaret Court had won the Australian women's singles title 11 times.
Nadal entered Sunday's final 85-2 lifetime at Roland Garros, and that fact alone put Thiem in a precarious position before the proceedings even got underway.
Nadal, playing in his 24th Grand Slam final overall, realised the resilient Thiem would prove a tough challenge after the pair stood toe-to-toe, exchanging a couple of breaks of serve in a stirring opening in stiflingly humid conditions in Paris, before the 24-year-old from Austria held serve in a marathon sixth game. But after, the Spaniard was imperious.
The score may have looked rather routine but there was some drama in the third set when Nadal called for the trainer at 2-1, 30-0.
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Nadal retained the momentum in the second set, breaking his opponent in the second game and holding out to edge closer to yet another title at Roland Garros.
Nadal is now the first player in the Open Era, male or female, to win the same Grand Slam tournament 11 times, a feat that has been dubbed La Undécima, after Real Madrid's bid to win an 11th European Cup.
The Austrian is never one to hide his frustration, but then the sheer relentlessness of Nadal on clay would wear anyone down.
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.
"I am sure you will win here in the next couple of years", Nadal told Thiem afterward.
But at 4-5 Thiem's serve let him down badly, handing Nadal three set points. After guzzling water during his visit from the doctor, Nadal was back to playing his unmistakable brand of almost unbeatable clay-court tennis. Thiem makes his second double fault in the game.