Nadal dealt with that ultimately minor inconvenience and claimed his record-extending 11th French Open championship Sunday by displaying his foe-rattling excellence in a 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 victory over No. 7 seed Dominic Thiem.
He also made the 2011 final but, after a stunning return from injury to win his first Grand Slam title for five years at last year's Australian Open, Federer has steered away from clay to protect the knee on which he had minor surgery in 2016.
The victory means the past six Grand Slam titles have been won by either Nadal or Federer with the next generation of players finding it hard to break the veterans' stranglehold on the game.
Up in the stands, Nadal's uncle Toni, his former coach, was nervous, too, "because I thought maybe we can have a problem", he said.
Thiem already suffered four double faults despite four aces at the start of the second set, while Nadal maintained all of his serves in the second set to move a step further at 6-3.
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But Nadal roared into the 2017 Australian Open final, losing to Federer, then captured his record 10th French Open crown in June a year ago, setting the stage for another title run in the Flushing Meadows fortnight at the US Open in September.
Up a break at 2-1 in the third set, Nadal stopped serving after a fault because he couldn't straighten his left middle finger.
"What is in my mind now is I won a very important title for me".
At 19, he won the 2005 French Open on his debut.
Spanish tennis genius Rafael Nadal clinched an 11th French Open against Dominic Thiem on Sunday to take his majors total to 17.
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Nadal is 50-2 on the surface in that span.
Despite this, Nadal has insisted he is not actively pursuing his grand slam rival.
"Let me enjoy this title", Nadal said with a smile. While Zverev is playing good tennis, he is no match for Federer and I expect the Swiss Champions to win easily.
"In the last two years I lost against good players, so it also always depends on your opponent. It was just bad misses", said Thiem. "I have ambition and passion for what I am doing".
"You can't be frustrated always if somebody have more money than you, if somebody have a bigger house than you, if somebody have more grand slams than you".
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In his 24th grand slam final, Nadal immediately looked comfortable in familiar surroundings and broke at the first time of asking as Thiem sent a backhand long and then dumped a forehand into the net. You can't live with that feeling, no?