Rafael Nadal's preparations for Roland Garros culminated in the best possible style as the Spaniard fought his way past world number one Novak Djokovic to lift the Rome Masters title.
Six-time French Open winner Nadal had won back-to-back trophies in Rome in 2009 and 2010 before Djokovic halted that run by beating the Spaniard in last year's final.
This year's showpiece 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 the previous week following Roger Federer's victory in Madrid.
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, but the second was more simple for Nadal, who closed out after Djokovic disappointingly double-faulted on match point.
However, Djokovic maintained the match was closer than the scoreline suggested, and said he was happy going into the French Open.
"I made a lot of unforced errors today," the Serbs said. "In my opinion he didn't play extremely well. I made a lot of errors, and that cannot happen when you play against Nadal."