Andy Murray believes he is closing in on a return to top form with the French Open looming.
The Scot has made quiet progress since undergoing back surgery last September, but drew the best from world No 1 Rafael Nadal on Friday in a gripping quarter-final in Rome.
Murray blitzed the Spaniard in the opening set and was 4-2 up in the third, before eventually succumbing to a 1-6 6-3 7-5 defeat after two hours and 40 minutes.
And though disappointed with a mid-match slump, he is confident of regaining the momentum which saw him win four titles last year - including Wimbledon - and equal his highest career ranking of second.
"I would have liked to have won because I had the opportunities and I started the match better than him," Murray told the ATP Tour's official website.
"I felt going into the French (Open) I would be playing good tennis.
"I don't feel like people have respected the severity of having back surgery; it takes time and I feel I am getting closer to where I want to be. (This) was the best I hit the ball and best I felt physically since the surgery.
"I was expecting to start playing well around this time, so that's pleasing. I was disappointed with the game I played at 4-2 in the third, though. Against him you don't get a load of chances and he finished the game incredibly well.
"Physically he was stronger than me at the end, but it was a good match."
The French Open gets under way in Paris on May 25.