Rome: Rafael Nadal said Ernests Gulbis was top-10 material after the Latvian threatened to hand him a rare defeat on clay in the Rome Masters semi-finals on Saturday.
The third seed won 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 but the problems he had with the 40th-ranked Gulbis`s powerful game put a dent in the aura of invincibility on red dirt the Spaniard appeared to have regained this season after an injury-hit 2009.
"He was really difficult to play against. All the time he was serving at 210, 215, 216, 217 (kph)," Nadal said after setting up a final meeting with compatriot David Ferrer.
"A player with this serve can be top 10 for sure," he told reporters.
Gulbis, who beat world number one Roger Federer earlier this week, was also confident he could give the big names plenty of trouble in the future.
"I`m happy with the way I`m playing. I know if I play well I can trouble anyone," he said.
"I have a good serve, I play tough shots so I hope I`ll be seeded in the French Open and at Wimbledon and I don`t have to play against the top players right away."
"I think I have a good chance in these tournaments if I`m stable enough, if I don`t go out of my mind and if I don`t take a holiday when I shouldn`t be taking one," added Gulbis.
The 21-year-old said he thought Nadal was going to be harder to play against.
"I expected a little more from him today," he said. "I got into the game and didn`t have any problems going into rallies with him."
The colourful Latvian, who has been compared to retired Russian maverick Marat Safin, plans to celebrate his exploits this week.
"I am flying back tonight. It`s Saturday night in Latvia so I`m going to go out," said Gulbis.