Garbine Muguruza upset Serena Williams 7-5 6-4 on Saturday to win the first grand slam of her career, while also depriving the American of tying Steffi Graf's Open Era record of 22 majors.
While Nadal is considered the greatest clay-court player of all time -- he owns a record nine titles at Roland Garros but had to withdraw with a wrist injury last week -- Spain hadn't produced a women's champion at the French Open since Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario in 1998.
"We were so sad when Rafa had to pull out," Conchita Martinez, Spain's Fed Cup and Davis Cup captain, told reporters. "If you know Rafa you know how much he wanted to play here.
"It was a sad day but the way Garbine was playing, you could see that she would have a chance to win this tournament, so Spain is very lucky to have these unbelievable tennis players," added the 2000 French Open finalist.
Sanchez-Vicario, part of the crowd on Philippe Chatrier court, earned the nickname "Barcelona bumblebee" from late tennis writer and historian Bud Collins. She was one of tennis' top movers, relying on counter-punching to frustrate and wear down rivals.
Muguruza tallies victories in dissimilar fashion, crushing balls from the back of the court. Her serve, when working, is a weapon. It came to the 22-year-old's aid more than once in the final, particularly when facing break points in the first set, although she also double faulted nine times.
Mind you, Muguruza clinched the trophy with a stunning backhand lob that Williams applauded.
Her ability to change direction in rallies and hit down the lines troubled Williams, who had downed Muguruza in the Wimbledon final last July but lost to her at the French Open in 2014.
They are sure to be celebrating in Venezuela, too. Muguruza was born in Caracas and only made the decision to represent Spain in team competitions two years ago.
If Nadal's wrist heals in time, he is expected to partner Muguruza in mixed doubles at the Olympics in August.
Williams, for the third consecutive major, didn't win the title. Roberta Vinci stunned Williams in the U.S. Open semifinals and in the Australian Open final, Angelique Kerber outlasted her.
That is, for the 34-year-old, a source of concern.
The aura of invincibility is fading, if only a little.
Williams kept the press waiting for two hours Thursday. On Saturday it was the opposite. Williams, unusually, went virtually straight from the court to the interview room. She didn't want to hang around.
Williams felt the pressure when attempting to reach 18 majors -- to tie Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova -- and is now struggling to match Graf.
Her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, was convinced it's a matter of when, not if.
"You can't play a grand slam final for history like any other, even though one grand slam final is a lot," he told reporters. "So it's going to take the time it's going to take. But we're going to do it.
"The good thing is we'll have many (chances) because she's in finals almost every time."
Questions surrounded Williams' health ahead of the finale, with an adductor injury the issue. The world No. 1 appeared sluggish in the first set of her semifinal against Kiki Bertens on Friday and in the quarterfinals Thursday against Yulia Putintseva, when Williams was two games away from defeat in the second set.
She seemed to be moving better, though, against Muguruza but was outdone by the fourth seed.
"I'm not one to ever make excuses and say, 'Oh my adductor was hurting or whatever,'" said Williams. "At the end of the day I didn't play the game I needed to play to win and she did.
"I think she has a bright future, obviously. She knows how to play on the big stage and she knows how to ... clearly she knows how to win grand slams."