Novak Djokovic fell one fightback short of a third-straight Internazionali d'Italia title after losing the final 6-3 6-3 in Rome to Scottish rival Andy Murray.
Djokovic faced a grueling run to the final and struggled to find his usual consistency in the showpiece match of the tournament on Sunday.
The Serbian star was disappointed with his performance and his inability to work back into the match, having done so in the semis against Kei Nishikori and the quarter-finals against Tomaz Bellucci - where he came back from a set down on both occasions.
"I had a long couple of weeks, especially the last couple of days. I knew it was going to be an uphill battle against Andy today," Djokovic said.
"I'm glad I managed to get to the final, because in a couple of matches I've had to come back from one-set deficits. All in all, it was very good two weeks after dropping out in Monte-Carlo early [against Jiri Vesely].
"I needed this kind of results. I got what I was looking for, which is lot of matches.
"My confidence level is high because of the many matches that I have won this year on this surface and all the other surfaces, so I don't feel that I'm doubtful or that I'm shaken up by this loss."
But world number one Djokovic was gracious in defeat - which came on Murray's 29th birthday - wishing his victorious opponent a happy birthday after the match.
"I wished him happy birthday and just to enjoy the time with his family," Djokovic recounted.
"I know that his wife, Kim, and [daughter] Sophia were here. I know as a young father how much it means to you when your family is on the road and when you get to have at least a couple of days alone with them. That's what I wished him.
"Of course, you don't like to lose, but, you've got to congratulate the better player. Andy deserved to win.
"To compete with him in the long exchanges that we tend to have in our encounters required a lot of energy and a better performance from me, which didn't happen."