Djokovic has a winning 8-1 record on clay this season
Novak Djokovic's preparations for the French Open continued apace as he beat Stanislas Wawrinka 4-6 6-3 6-3 at the Rome Masters for a 10th career title.
With a fortnight to go until Paris, Djokovic was keen to net a third title of the year but struggled to cope with Wawrinka's backhand early in the match.
However, as the rallies grew longer, unforced errors crept into Wawrinka's game and Djokovic slowly took control.
And the Serb broke three times to seal a victory in the decisive third set.
Wawrinka's cause was not helped when he called the trainer on for a lower back injury at 2-3 and a break down in the final set, sparking concerns that Djokovic could see a third successive opponent retire injured.
However, the Swiss player did not appear to be too hampered thereafter, but Djokovic maintained his lead and broke again to close out the match in little more than two hours.
That came after Wawrinka won the opening set with a solitary break, even after a nervy start saw him double fault on his first service point, but he could not maintain the pressure as Djokovic eventually saw out a comfortable victory.
"I knew he's a difficult player to play against on this surface because he's achieved his best results on it," Djokovic said after the match.
"In the end I did what I had to do. Even though I won in three sets, I'm happy in general with my performance in this tournament.
"I was aiming for Rome and Roland Garros as my two priorities in this clay-court season. But of course Hamburg is next week, so I'll try to do my best there.
"This year has been like a dream for me, but I want to continue, I want to finish the year as the number one in the race."
His third victory of 2008 - he won the Australian Open in January and the Masters Series event in Indian Wells in March - will move Djokovic within 310 points of second-ranked Rafael Nadal in the ATP rankings.
Of course I'm disappointed because I lost, but I lost against the world number three
Djokovic did not face a seeded player all week, registering wins against Steve Darcis and Igor Andreev in his opening two matches and then seeing his opponents in the quarter-final and semi-final - Nicolas Almagro and Radek Stepanek - withdraw through injury.
Despite the loss, Wawrinka will move to 10th when the new rankings come out on Monday and means, with Roger Federer number one, it will mark the first time two Swiss players have been in the top 10.
And he was philosophical after the defeat, saying: "I started very well. In the first set I was always before him. I was pushing him.
"Of course I'm disappointed because I lost, but I lost against the world number three."