Cecchinato's Roland Garros dream goes on with Djokovic shock

Novak Djokovic's French Open is over after he suffered a shock defeat at the hands of Marco Cecchinato in Paris.

Italy's Marco Cecchinato celebrates during his quarterfinal matcg against Serbia's Novak Djokovic.   -  AFP

Marco Cecchinato produced the shock of the French Open as he continued his incredible fairytale run at Roland Garros by stunning 12-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic to progress to the semifinals. 

Cecchinato had never won a Grand Slam main draw singles match prior to this event, but he has enjoyed a magnificent tournament in Paris, beating Pablo Carreno Busta and David Goffin en route to the last eight.

Read: Updates - As the action unfolded on Roland Garros

But a meeting with the former world number one and 2016 champion on Court Suzanne Lenglen represented a true David versus Goliath contest, even with Djokovic's well-documented struggles for form and fitness leaving him a much less imposing favourite than in years gone by.

The Serbian endured further problems in this encounter, receiving treatment on apparent issues with both his shoulder and knee, yet that should not take away from a fearless performance from Cecchinato that earned him the biggest win of his career.

Having seen the unheralded Italian claim the first two sets, a Djokovic recovery typical of his heyday appeared on the cards after he easily won the third and went a break up in the fourth.

However, Cecchinato produced a magnificent display of resilience to fight back and force a tie-break.

An engrossing shootout went the way of the world number 72, who sank to the floor overcome with emotion after a looping backhand down the line landed in to clinch a 6-3 7-6 (7-4) 1-6 7-6 (13-11) triumph and set up a semi-final against Dominic Thiem.

Serbia's Novak Djokovic reacts during the match.   -  Getty Images

 

Any notion that Cecchinato would be daunted by the magnitude of the occasion was swiftly put to bed as he broke in the fourth game, exhibiting searing power off both wings to trouble Djokovic, who was visited by the trainer both during the set and after the Italian had wrapped up the opener with an ace.

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The treatment the Serbian received appeared to have had little impact when he fired long off the backhand side in the first game of the second set to give Cecchinato the break but, after avoiding losing a fourth game in a row, he won the next eight points to get the set back on serve.

Yet Djokovic struggled to convert in the key moments, and he was punished for wasting three set points as his opponent won the tie-break on the back of a booming serve up the middle.

It was a different tale in the third as, after three successive breaks to start the set, Djokovic took it by the scruff of the neck and clinched it as Cecchinato sent a limp backhand drop shot into the net.

Further evidence the tide was changing came as an exquisite backhand volley set up Djokovic to break en route to a 3-0 lead in the fourth, but his inability to take any of his three chances for a double-break in the sixth game proved the true turning point.

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Buoyed by that escape, Cecchinato broke back with a forehand down the line when Djokovic was serving for the set and, though the 31-year-old won a 19-shot rally to avoid being broken again, it was the quarter-final debutant who was again stronger in the tie-break.

Cecchinato won a 25-shot exchange to set up a match point that went begging but Djokovic, for all his bewitching play at the net, let three set points slip with some uncharacteristic forehand errors.

Having spurned two further match points, Cecchinato took his fourth with a majestic backhand that marked a fitting winner as he moved a win away from a grand slam final appearance nobody could have anticipated.

STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN  
Cecchinato bt Djokovic [20] 6-3 7-6 (7-4) 1-6 7-6 (13-11)

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS  
Cecchinato – 54/41
Djokovic – 38/41

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS 
Cecchinato – 6/5
Djokovic – 5/2

BREAK POINTS WON 
Cecchinato 4/10
Djokovic – 6/17

FIRST SERVE PERCENTAGE  
Cecchinato - 74
Djokovic - 68

PERCENTAGE OF POINTS WON ON FIRST/SECOND SERVE 
Cecchinato – 62/47
Djokovic – 65/55

TOTAL POINTS 
Cecchinato - 140
Djokovic – 144