Andy Murray
Murray suffered a quarter final defeat to Nadal in the Italian capital.GettyImages

Andy Murray was left feeling positive despite his defeat to Rafael Nadal in a gripping quarter final contest at the Rome Masters.

The Scot blitzed Nadal in the opening set in their first meeting since the Japan Open two and a half years ago but Murray's final campaign before the French Open was ended as the world no. 1 hit back to win 1-6 6-3 7-5.

Murray took a 4-2 advantage in the third set as he sought to see off the challenge of the seven time champion but would succumb to defeat inside two hours and 40 minutes.

But having made encouraging progress since undergoing back surgery last September, Murray believes he is well placed to rediscover his charge for major titles at Roland Garros.

"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."

Defending champion Nadal will meet Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov in Saturday's semi-final while Novak Djokovic faces Canadian eighth seed Milos Raonic.