Novak Djokovic made a shock French Open exit at the hands of world No.72 Marco Cecchinato, and then cast doubt over whether he would play at Wimbledon.
Cecchinato won 6-3 7-6(4) 1-6 7-6(11), clinching victory on his fourth match point in a stunning tiebreak to become the first Italian man to reach a Grand Slam semifinal since Corrado Barazzutti at Roland Garros in 1978.
The 25-year-old had never won a main-draw match at a Grand Slam tournament before arriving in Paris last week.
Djokovic had his chances, with two set points slipping by in the second set and a 5-2 lead and three set points lead disappearing in the fourth.
Cecchinato found a second wind after dropping the third set, however, producing a brilliant array of drop shots and blistering groundstrokes among his 54 winners.
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“At the start, I think ‘this is Novak.’” said Cecchinato.
“In the tie-breaks, every set I think, ‘this is Novak.’ But I was very focused on every point. I played very, very good points on match point.”
The Italian goes on to face Austrian seventh seed Dominic Thiem – a 6-4 6-2 6-1 winner over Alexander Zverev – in the semifinals, while the immediate future is less certain for Djokovic.
Seeded a lowly 20th after almost two years of struggles with fitness and form, the 12-time Grand Slam champion had. appeared to be back in major contention in Paris.
However, defeat by the unseeded and unheralded Cecchinato hit him hard.
“I don’t know if I’m going to play on grass. I don’t know. I don’t know what I’m going to do,” Djokovic told a hurried press conference.
“I just came from the court. Sorry, guys, I can’t give you that answer. I cannot give you any answer.
“How do I regroup? I don’t know. I’m just not thinking about tennis at the moment.”
The 2016 champion required on-court treatment to his neck during the match but refused to elobartae on any physical issues.
“Just couple of things, but nothing major,” he said. “I don’t want to talk about that.”
It is now two years since Djokovic won a major title, completing the set at Roland Garros in 2016, and his last Grand Slam semifinal was at the 2016 US Open.
“Any defeat is difficult in the Grand Slams, especially one that came from months of build-up,” he said.
“I thought I had a great chance to get at least a step further, but it wasn’t to be. That’s the way it is.
“Yes, it is heartbreaking, but not the most painful defeat of my career. It’s never been hard for me to congratulate and hug an opponent.
“He deserved to win. I know him well. He’s a great guy. On the other hand, when you walk off the court, of course, it’s a hard one to swallow.”
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