Rafael Nadal enjoyed the perfect preparation for the defence of his French Open title with victory over world number one Novak Djokovic in Monday's rearranged Rome Masters final.
The contest - a rematch of last year's final which was won by Djokovic - had to be put back 24 hours because of persistent rain on Sunday , but it was Nadal who came out on top 7-5 6-3 in two hours and 21 minutes.
As a result of the win, Nadal returns to second in the world rankings having slipped out of the top two eight days ago following Roger Federer's victory in Madrid.
The Spaniard, who has now won this tournament six times, admitted it was far from easy on court, though.
"I had to be very focused all the time, his return is unbelievable," he said.
"I suffered a lot on every serve but I was very, very focused.
"The mentality was there at the right time because I know to win matches against Novak you have to be at your limit all the time because he's pushing you at every moment.
"I think I was strong mentally today, enough to play very well at the important moments."
Nadal had ended a run of seven successive defeats to the Serbian with a straight-sets victory in last month's Monte Carlo Masters final.
The opening set in the Italian capital was, almost predictably, a close affair played out over one hour and 17 minutes.
Nadal was the first to break in the fifth game, but Djokovic, who turns 25 on Tuesday, pulled the deficit back immediately to level matters.
A tie-break then seemed the most likely outcome but Nadal had other ideas and claimed the decisive break in the 11th with a backhand winner.
That left the Spanish second seed serving for the set and he gained the advantage when Djokovic hit a forehand return long.
Nadal broke again in the opening game of the second set, forcing Djokovic out wide with a powerful forehand which the Serbian could only return into the net.
The Spaniard was then forced to stave off four break points on his next service game as Djokovic looked for a way back into the match.
However, Nadal caught the scent of victory in game nine when Djokovic pushed a backhand wide on his serve to set up match point for his opponent.
And it was a disappointing end to an enthralling contest when Djokovic double-faulted to hand Nadal the title.
Djokovic was gracious in defeat afterwards, saying on www.atptour.com: "He is always the favourite, even if I win against him seven times.
"He is the best player in the world on this surface.
"I think that the match today was quite close, even if he won in straight sets.
"If you don't use the opportunities against Rafa he gets momentum. I made a lot of errors which should not happen when you play against Nadal.
"I will go to Paris with confidence and I played a great week."