Marco Cecchinato stuns Novak Djokovic

Italy's Marco Cecchinato celebrates winning his quarterfinal against Serbia's Novak Djokovic. REUTERS

World number 72 Marco Cecchinato became the first Italian man in 40 years to reach a Grand Slam semifinal on Tuesday with a breathtaking 6-3, 7-6 (7/4), 1-6, 7-6 (13/11) victory over 12-time major winner Novak Djokovic.

Cecchinato, who had never won a Grand Slam match in his career before Roland Garros, goes on to face Austrian seventh seed Dominic Thiem for a place in Sunday’s final.

In an epic fourth set tiebreaker, Djokovic saved three match points but wasted three set points as Cecchinato became the lowest-ranked man in the semifinals in Paris since 100th-ranked Andrei Medvedev in 1999.

In a roller-coaster of a quarterfinal, both men were warned for coaching, 2016 champion Djokovic required two medical timeouts while the Italian was docked a point for unsportsmanlike behaviour.

Djokovic had also squandered three set points in the second set and failed to serve out the fourth in the ninth game after being 5-2 in front.

In an extraordinary post-match press conference, Djokovic then said he may even skip Wimbledon where he has been champion three times.

“I don’t know if I am going to play on grass,” said the Serb.

Cecchinato said he was stunned by his triumph, coming just two years after his career was almost derailed when he became embroiled in match-fixing allegations.

“Maybe I’m sleeping. It’s amazing, it’s unbelievable for me. I’m very happy because it’s unbelievable to beat Novak Djokovic in a quarter-final at Roland Garros. It’s amazing,” said the 25-year-old who is the first Italian to get this far at a Slam since Corrado Barazzutti at Roland Garros in 1978.

Djokovic, bidding to reach a 32nd Grand Slam semi-final, hit just three winners in the first set. The 31-year-old also needed a medical timeout to treat a neck injury which looked as if it would derail him when he slipped 0-2 down in the second set to the Italian.

Thiem reached his third successive French Open semi-final with a 6-4, 6-2, 6-1 demolition of a hobbled and exhausted Alexander Zverev who admitted he was close to quitting the tie.

US Open champion Sloane Stephens brushed aside Russian Daria Kasatkina in the womens quarterfinals to set up a repeat of last year’s Flushing Meadows final with fellow American Madison Keys.

The 10th seed produced a clinical performance to down Kasatkina, the conqueror of world number two Caroline Wozniacki, 6-3, 6-1.

Earlier Keys, the 13th seed, reached the semis for the first time by seeing off Yulia Putintseva 7-6 (7/5), 6-4.

Bopanna out

Rohan Bopanna and his partner Edouard Roger-Vasselin crashed out of the tournament after suffering a 7-6 (7/4), 6-2 defeat to Nikola Mektic and Alexander Peya.

Results (Pre-fix denotes seeding): Quarterfinals: Men: Marco Cecchinato (Ita) bt 20-Novak Djokovic (Srb) 6-3, 7-6 (7/4), 1-6, 7-6 (13/11), 7-Dominic Thiem (Aut) bt 2-Alexander Zverev (Ger) 6-4, 6-2, 6-1.

Women: 13-Madison Keys (USA) bt Yulia Putintseva (Kaz) 7-6 (7/5), 6-4, 10-Sloane Stephens (USA) bt 14-Daria Kasatkina (Rus) 6-3, 6-1.

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