In the first Grand Slam of the year, Nadal was beaten by Thiem in the quarter-finals and the Austrian reached the final after defeating Alexander Zverev in the semis.
But in a gripping five-set battle, Djokovic got the better of Thiem to win his 17th Grand Slam title.
It meant Djokovic moved just two behind Nadal and three off all-time leader Roger Federer.
And by the end of 2020, it is possible Federer could be surpassed by Nadal while Djokovic could be level with him with success in the next three majors.
In the days after the final, Nadal was asked if he would have preferred Thiem to beat Djokovic and said: “Obviously, yes.
“You don’t have to be a hypocrite, right? It would have been better for me personally if Thiem won. But, to be honest, I slept exactly as well the last two days.
“In that regard, it doesn’t matter if Dominic had won or if Novak won. It is part of our sport.
“This tournament is particularly good at Novak. And right now he is today, the best player in the world.
“This is what the numbers say. And the only thing that can be done is to congratulate him on another great success.”
It was a candid statement by Nadal and speaking ahead of this week’s Mexican Open in Acapulco, where he is the top seed, Nadal explained again the reasons behind his thoughts.
“It is that in this world we sometimes live a bit of hypocrisy,” he told reporters.
“I have a good relationship with Dominic as I also have with Djokovic, but the reality is that if you ask me if I prefer Djokovic to have more ‘Grand Slam’ than me, well, I answer no.
“Therefore, if I have to choose to win one or the other, I choose the other.
“It is a purely professional issue and I do not hide from saying that because I think if you ask Novak who prefers to win Roland Garros, he’ll tell you Dominic.
“This is the reality of the competition and it’s not going against anyone or a strange motive.”