MONTE CARLO • Daniil Medvedev had won only two times from 11 tour-level matches on clay before yesterday's Monte Carlo Masters quarter-finals, but the Russian still managed to defy all odds to shock world No. 1 Novak Djokovic 6-3, 4-6, 6-2.
Djokovic, twice a former champion in Monte Carlo, lost his serve five times as 10th seed Medvedev gained revenge for his last-16 defeat by the 31-year-old Serb at this year's Australian Open.
Medvedev, 23, prevailed after his more illustrious opponent surprisingly made a total of 47 unforced errors and advanced to his first ATP Masters 1000 semi-final following the match which lasted 2hr 20min.
For Djokovic, he admitted that Medvedev had a superior backhand while also attributing his defeat to the wind.
"He's got a very solid backhand. He doesn't make many mistakes from the backhand," he said.
"He hits it very low with depth. A windy day like today, conditions are changing every single game. It's kind of tough to find the rhythm, and he doesn't give you much rhythm.
"He improved his movement a lot since last year. He definitely deserves to be where he is."
According to the ATP Tour website, Medvedev is just the second man to defeat Djokovic in nine quarter-finals at the Monte-Carlo Country Club. Belgian David Goffin was the first in 2017.
For Djokovic, who won a record seventh Melbourne title in January, it marked another premature exit for the top seed after he crashed out early at Indian Wells and Miami last month.
Pundit Greg Rusedski, the former British No. 1, believes that the Serb has much to improve on.
"I think he was better than Indian Wells and Miami, but it wasn't the Djokovic who won Miami (from 2014-16)," he said.
"It just wasn't the guy mentally who wanted it so badly. I think he has to show us a performance before the French Open."
Medvedev, ranked a career-high 14th, extended his best run at a Masters 1000 event, having not advanced beyond the last 16 before.
The four-time ATP title winner has been impressive this season, having now clinched a tour-leading 21 wins (21-6). It puts him ahead of Roger Federer (18-2) and Stefanos Tsitsipas (18-8).
He will next face another Serb, Dusan Lajovic, who had to summon all of his resolve after falling ill last week to book a place in the semi-finals with a 6-4, 7-5 win over Lorenzo Sonego yesterday.
"I was on antibiotics last week, I didn't know how I'd do," he said.
"But I'm now into my first Masters semi-final. I've been playing my best tennis," added Lajovic, who has not dropped a set so far.
ATP MONTE CARLO MASTERS
S-finals: StarHub Ch201, 7.30pm