Max Biaggi, Sete Gibernau, Loris Capirossi, Casey Stoner, Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa. Those are just some of the great riders that Valentino Rossi has battled for MotoGP victory during his illustrious career.

But the Italian ranks Sunday's Qatar duel with Andrea Dovizioso as among the best of his career.

Rossi caught the race-leading trio of Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo, plus Ducati riders Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone just before the halfway stage of the 22 laps. The group constantly shuffled positions before Lorenzo and Iannone dropped out of victory contention in the closing laps.

Rossi and Dovizioso continued to trade places until Rossi was able to gain a few vital bike lengths going into the final lap, holding on to win by just 0.174s.

"I put this battle in the top of my career. Because Dovi today rode in a very clever way, but is also very strong. Because he knows that today he can win, so he gave the maximum, he was aggressive," Rossi said.

"I think the best moment was braking into Turn 1: Dovi overtook me from the outside, he go wide, I come back, but he stayed inside to the second corner and after I was able to exit faster and overtake.

"So it was very good. One of the very best. So I put this battle at the same level as with Jorge or with M?rquez."

The Doctor added that the way MotoGP races are won has also changed.

"I'm very happy because in recent years the races have changed. Because have one moment [in the past] with Stoner and Lorenzo that the races were finished after three laps. Sincerely was most difficult and also boring races.

"Now looks that for some reason it has changed. And with Marc [Marquez] it is always more of a battle to the end. A little bit more strategy and I like a lot this type of racing."

Rossi hadn't won the season-opening MotoGP race since 2010.