Novak Djokovic believes his ability to find an "extra gear" was key to his defeat of Rafael Nadal at the Internazionali d'Italia.
World number one Djokovic beat the 'King of Clay' Nadal 7-5 7-6 (7-4) in the Rome quarter-finals on Friday, though the straight-sets nature of victory belied a thrilling, well-matched contest.
Djokovic had to fight back from breaks down to win, extending his winning run over the Spaniard to seven matches, and an incredible 15 sets.
The win gives Djokovic serious momentum ahead of his latest attempt at a first French Open title, and the Serbian hopes his big-game prowess will stand him in good stead.
"Towards the end of both sets I managed to find an extra gear, to play with a little bit more purpose, and come up with some aggressive play," he said after defeating Nadal.
"I didn't take the initiative first, I wanted to be more aggressive. But that's easier said than done.
"Winning against Nadal is the ultimate challenge on clay courts and one of the toughest challenges we have in sport.
"I have to be very pleased with the way I handled myself in the big moments today. I won against one of my biggest rivals on his preferred surface.
"We must not forget he's in form. He won Monte-Carlo and Barcelona and has played well the past couple of weeks."
Nadal was happy to overcome a slight blip at the Madrid Masters to get back to what he believes is his best tennis in the Italian capital.
"I think I'm playing well in the clay court season, except my last two matches in Madrid," said Nadal.
"Today I was there mentally, hitting good shots. I was very close this afternoon, and that's positive.
"Obviously, when you feel you're so close to taking both sets and you exit the tournament you can't be 100 per cent happy.
"But overall I've competed at the highest level against the best player in the world. That gives me confidence that I'm ready for other things."