Novak Djokovic believes his Rome Masters triumph over Rafael Nadal is the perfect tonic ahead of his latest bid to win the French Open and complete a career Grand Slam.
The world number two came from a set down to depose seven-time Rome champion Nadal 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 and capture his third title in the Italian capital.
It was his fourth successive victory over the world number one and came just a week before the start of the French Open, the only major the Serb has yet to win.
“Winning a final of a great tournament with Rafa on clay is definitely a confidence booster and the ultimate challenge,” said Djokovic.
“I am very happy with my game and I hope I can carry it to Roland Garros.”
Sunday’s win was Djokovic’s 19th career Masters title and his 19th win against Nadal in 41 meetings.
It also allowed the 26-year-old to convince himself that the right wrist injury which torpedoed his Monte Carlo Masters title defense and then ruled him out of the Madrid Masters is a thing of the past.
“It’s been a great week, considering how I was few weeks ago with the injury and I didn’t know how the wrist was going to react this week,” he said.
“Luckily for me I played with no pain, increasing the level of my tennis as the week went on.”
Djokovic, a six-time major winner thanks to four Australian Open triumphs and one apiece at the US Open and Wimbledon, was beaten in the final at Roland Garros by Nadal in 2012.
Last year, he was a break up in the final set of a semi-final epic against the Spaniard before Nadal came through 9-7.
“I do not underestimate any opponent and especially Rafa who is the best player ever in the history on this surface, we all know his record,” said Djokovic, desperate to keep a lid on expectations.
Djokovic’s caution is understandable given Nadal has an astonishing record of eight titles in Paris, 59 match wins and just one loss in a run stretching back to 2005.
But chinks are appearing in the famed Nadal armour.
His loss on Sunday meant he had lost three claycourt matches in the same season for the first time since 2004 when he was 17.
Worryingly for him, Djokovic fired a huge 46 winners past him in Sunday’s final.
Nadal put on a brave face after his defeat which followed a tough three-set win over Andy Murray in the quarter-finals.
“I was able to compete good with one of the best players of the moment,” said Nadal.
“My chances to play well at Roland Garros two weeks ago weren’t very high, now I arrive at Roland Garros with more encouragement.”
Meanwhile, Djokovic dedicated his win on Sunday to the Balkans where floods in Serbia and Bosnia have killed at least 44 people while making thousands of others homeless.
“Not being present makes me sad because I cannot physically contribute because if I was there I would, definitely,” he said.
“As soon as the flood passes by we’ll need help from the world because the process of recovery can last for months or years. This is the biggest disaster in the history of our country.”