He began that quest Sunday, winning his record-extending 11th title on the clay at Roland Garros and 17th major overall with a 6-4 6-3 6-2 victory over his spirited but ultimately vanquished challenger, Dominic Thiem.
Having also beaten him in Rome last year, he is the only man to defeat Nadal on clay in the past two years, and the way he had played on the way to the final threatened to make it a classic match.
Thiem, competing in his first major final, was second best in the next set as he was edged out in a gruelling second game for the only break of serve.
Though Thiem may be the apparent heir to Nadal's King of Clay throne, the Spaniard picked up Slam No. 17 and improved to an 86-2 lifetime record at Roland Garros.
Thiem used to hike through the Alps in his homeland as part of his training, but the 24-year-old had an even bigger mountain to climb now.
Nadal, in an on-court interview, also said he's sure that runner-up Thiem will win the tournament in "the next couple of years".
Halep, Caroline Wozniacki and Garbine Muguruza remained the WTA's top three, but French Open runner-up Sloane Stephens went from No 10 to a career-high No 4.More news: South Korean president hopes for 'major agreement' at US-N.Korea summit
More prize money is up for grabs than ever before at this year's French Open but it remains the least lucrative of the four Grand Slams for players to win.
The next few games were an absolute treat for fans of clay court tennis. Puerta was to later fail a drugs test and handed an eight-year ban, eventually reduced to two years.
But, at 4-5, Thiem's serve let him down badly, handing Nadal three set points. In the other semi-final, Marco Cecchinato's unusual run in the last two weeks was ended by Dominic Thiem, also in straight sets, although the first two sets were somewhat closer than anything Del Potro could muster. "What is in my mind now is that I won a very important title for me", he added. He lost the first set, then turned things around after a rain delay. It was his best performance of the fortnight, as Nadal confirmed on court, just when he needed it most.
"It's not even a dream to win here 11 times, because it's impossible to think of something like this".
He saved another two in the 11-minute sixth game, a performance cheered by the crowd who briefly became more animated when glum-looking French football icon Zinedine Zidane was spotted in the stadium.
Written off as fading forces two years ago, Nadal, 32, and Roger Federer, approaching 37, have won the last six Grand Slam titles between them.
Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic have won the French Open for their first Grand Slam title in women's doubles.
Slow starts have plagued Nadal in several of his matches this fortnight, most notably against 11th-seed Diego Schwartzman in the quarterfinals.