Last year Nadal, who has now won 52 matches at Roland Garros and lost just one, equalled Bjorn Borg’s record of six wins on the Paris clay. On Monday he became the greatest player the tournament has seen.
"For me it is a great honour," Nadal said, clutching the Musketeers Cup under his arm.
"This tournament is probably the most special in the world and having this trophy with me I am really emotional. It is probably one of the most special moments in my career."
By contrast Djokovic was denied a career Grand Slam and also the chance to become the first player since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four Slam titles simultaneously.
"Congratulations to Rafa and his team for another title; he is a great player," Djokovic said.
"I am privileged to be in this position for the first time. Rafa was a better player and I hope to come back next year and play even better."
Djokovic served a double fault to end a brief Monday battle which was packed with tension and drama.
Nadal, who had been two sets up on Sunday before a Djokovic fightback and resumed at 6-4 6-3 2-6 1-2 – a break down – immediately broke the world number one Djokovic to get the fourth set back on serve.
The Serbian committed a pair of errors in a game boasting long rallies before Nadal was fortunate to see a shot into the netcord drop the right side of the net. Djokovic got the ball back, but the Spaniard pounced to finish the game with a backhand pass.
The world number two was seeded second at the tournament despite his incredible record, but considered the favourite on a surface he has dominated for years.
He immediately had his range, sending a forehand winner spinning on to the sideline in claiming a hold which again featured several long rallies.
At 3-2 down and yet to win a game on Monday, Djokovic attacked the net immediately to soft volley for 15-0 but was more cautious for the remainder of that game, taking it when Nadal was adjudged to have hit long. It was turning into a real baseline battle.
As Nadal held for 4-3 the rain arrived: there would be two further games before it seriously threatened the action.
Djokovic came to the net once more, but once there displayed hesitation and was a mite lucky to see a poor defensive shot loop long from his opponent. An error brought them to 30-30 before the Serbian saw out the game with a big serve then ace right on the sideline which had the spectators salivating.
There had been criticism of the decision to hold the final over to Monday, but it did not manifest itself in the stands on Philippe Chatrier as a raucous crowd rinsed every last drop of drama from the set.
Djokovic could not get Nadal on his weaker forehand, with the latter able to run around his shots despite a faster, harder court surface than that of Sunday. Djokovic’s own backhand was suffering as he went 5-4 down to leave himself serving to stay in the match.
After a quick court inspection, the players were about to play when the rain increased in intensity: they sat it out shivering under towels courtside.
After a few minutes the rain ceased and the sun came out in full, making the court a sight more typical of Roland Garros. And Djokovic found the hold he needed for 5-5 as the players threw everything at one another.
Nadal looked set to hold easily before he was pegged back to 30-30: first he was angry that a Djokovic shot was not called out, then the Serbian arrived at the net to thunder a winner. However he was to seal the game when a tense rally played all over the court ended with the top seed dropping a lob just long.
In the final game, Djokovic hit long for 30-30 and another error gave Nadal the chance of victory. He did not even have to fight for it as the double fault ended a brief afternoon of high drama on a damp note.