Novak Djokovic has given himself a valuable boost before the French Open as he came from behind against Rafael Nadal to claim his third Rome Masters title.
The world no.2 came out on top against the highest ranked man in the sport with a 3-6 6-4 6-4 in the Italian capital.
Djokovic has had the better of his Spanish rival recently, and this success extends his winning run to four - following other triumphs at Beijing, the World Tour Finals and Miami Masters.
With the Roland Garros action less than a week away from kicking off, this was the perfect time for the Serbian star to show his ever improving clay credentials.
Nadal, as always, will be favourite to win in Paris - he has only ever lost once in nine years - but his recent poor form has really opened the door for his fiercest challenger.
Shock quarter-final defeats in Monte Carlo and Barcelona, as well as a Madrid Open title in which he only won thanks to the retirement of Kei Nishikori, had looked to have been atoned for after strong showings in Italy.
Nadal started strongly against the six-time Grand Slam champion too.
The world no.1 broke his opponent's serve twice in a fast paced opener. It was very much a different scenario than Nadal's last eight tie when Andy Murray had him at 5-0 down at one stage.
Djokovic pulled one break back but he failed to cash-in a break point opportunity to level things up and as such the first set went array.
However his momentum wasn't broken during the interval and he came at Nadal hard in the second.
All day he outscored the Spaniard with his winners and he cruised into a 3-0 lead.
This time it was Nadal that could only pull-back one of two breaks he needed to get back into the set as it went into a decider.
After an early break of serve in Djokovic's favour, Nadal thought back to draw level at 3-3 but the Serbian looked to have the edge over his weary opponent who had been forced to endure three setters on three other matches this week..
The world no.2 closed out the win as he continues to breathe down his rivals shoulder going into the second Grand Slam of 2014.
Djokovic has never won on the French dirt and it looks as though he will never have a better chance against the faltering 'King of Clay'.
His win here is even more impressive considering it marked the comeback following his troublesome arm injury that affected him in Monte Carlo and forced his withdrawal in Madrid.
"It's a special moment to win this tournament," he said on-court in Italian following the contest.
"I want to thank my team who are always close to me and give me tons of support throughout my career. None of this would be possible without them.
"I've really appreciated the chance to play here over the years and this final was an incredible challenge. I hope to return next year, see you again."
Nadal still has the edge in their overall head-to-head record by winning 22 of their 41 meetings, but this is the first time that he has lost three clay matches in one season, and the 13-time Grand Slam winner admits that Djokovic is causing concern ahead of next week's major.
"He's one of the best in the world, he's playing great," Nadal said after failing to reach an eight Rome title.
"I played well for moments, I had my chances for moments, but I could have done with a little more energy at times. My legs didn't answer me after a tough week.
"I was able to find positive things during the tournament but I played three very tough matches this week and it was very hard mentally, as well as physically. I was a little bit tired."
The likes of Murray, Australian Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka and tennis' most successful star Roger Federer will all be aiming for a Paris win next week as they return to the fold.
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