Tennis

French Open: Djokovic upset in quarters by unseeded Cecchinato

Novak Djokovic was stunned by 72nd-ranked Marco Cecchinato of Italy 6-3, 7-6 (4), 1-6, 7-6 (11) in a rollicking match filled with long points and plenty of drama.

Italian lowest-ranked male to reach semifinals in 19 years

Novak Djokovic congratulates Marco Cecchinato after the unseeded Italian upset the 12-time Grand Slam champion in the quarter-finals of the French Open on Tuesday. (Eric Feferberg/AFP/Getty Images)

Novak Djokovic's neck was bothering him. Then his right leg was.

The way he faltered at the most crucial of moments in the French Open quarter-finals Tuesday might have hurt him the most against an opponent who never won a Grand Slam match until last week and once was handed a match-fixing suspension later overturned on appeal.

At the site of his 12th and most recent major title, which came two years ago, Djokovic was stunned by 72nd-ranked Marco Cecchinato of Italy 6-3, 7-6 (4), 1-6, 7-6 (11) in a rollicking match filled with long points and plenty of drama.

72nd ranked Dominic Thiem shocked Novak Djokovic in the quarters on Tuesday. While Dominic Thiem easily defeated the injured Sascha Zverev in the other quarter-final. 1:19

"He held his nerves amazingly well in important moments," acknowledged Djokovic, who said he isn't certain whether he will play at Wimbledon.

Djokovic served for the fourth set at 5-3 but got broken. He then held three set points in the tiebreaker but couldn't convert any.

"It's a pity I could not capitalize on the chances I had," Djokovic said.

Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys both advanced in Paris, setting up a rematch of the 2017 U.S. Open final. 1:08

Cecchinato (it's pronounced cheh-key-NAH'-toe) came through on his fourth match point, looping in a backhand return winner as Djokovic tried to surprise him with a serve-and-volley attempt. Cecchinato, who dropped onto his back on the clay after winning, is the lowest-ranked man to get to the semifinals in Paris in 19 years — and about as unlikely as anyone to get this far at a big tournament.

Told in an on-court interview that he wasn't dreaming, Cecchinato responded: "Are you sure?"

The 25-year-old from Sicily was suspended for 18 months and fined 40,000 euros (about $45,000) by his national federation in July 2016, accused of losing on purpose at a lower-tier Challenger event in Morocco a year earlier. Eventually, the Italian Olympic Committee announced that sanctions were dropped on a technicality.

Cecchinato has never won a tour-level match on a surface other than red clay; as it is, he entered this season with a career record of 4-23.

Unsure about Wimbledon

Asked about Wimbledon, the 31-year-old Djokovic said he couldn't give an answer at that time.

"I don't know if I'm going to play on grass," Djokovic, who won the last of his 12 Grand Slam titles in Paris two years ago, told reporters crowded into a small interview room after he declined the opportunity to use a much larger one.
 
When pressed on whether that meant he would not play at Wimbledon, he was non-committal.
 
"I don't know. I don't know what I'm going to do. I just came from the court. Sorry, guys, I can't give you that answer.
 
"I cannot give you any answer."

Thiem upsets No. 2 Zverev

Dominic Thiem made it to a third straight French Open semifinal after swatting aside second-seeded Alexander Zverev 6-4, 6-2, 6-1 on Tuesday.

The seventh-seeded Thiem is in sight of a first final at Roland Garros.

There was no stirring comeback this time for Zverev.

Heading into the match, the German had won three consecutive five-setters — trailing 2-1 in sets in each — but the rousing effort caught up to him against Thiem.

Just 10 minutes in, Zverev clutched at his left hamstring. He grabbed it again midway through the second set, after giving chase to one of several drop shots Thiem used to force Zverev to run a lot.

After falling behind 4-1 in that set an hour into the match, Zverev called for a trainer, who applied a thick bandage to his upper left leg.

Soon enough, Zverev lost the second set, too, and it proved to be too much of a deficit to overcome. He trailed 4-0 in the third set before getting a game.

Canadian in mixed-doubles final

Meanwhile, Ottawa's Gabriela Dabrowski is off to the French Open mixed-doubles final for the second straight year.

Dabrowski and teammate Mate Pavic of Croatia downed Slovakia's Katarina Srebotnik and Mexico's Santiago Gonzalez 6-4, 6-4 in Tuesday's mixed semifinals.

Dabrowski and Pavic, the top seeded team, had six aces, compared to one for their opponents. They converted two of four break point opportunities and saved all three break points they faced as they rolled to victory in just over an hour.

In the final, Dabrowski and Pavic will face either Germany's Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Colombia's Robert Farah or the second-seeded team of Taiwan's Latisha Chan and Croatia's Ivan Dodig.

Dabrowski teamed with India's Rohan Bopanna to win last year's French Open mixed-doubles title. Dabrowski and Pavic won the Australian Open mixed title earlier this year.

All-American semifinal

Madison Keys reached her first French Open semifinal by defeating unseeded Yulia Putintseva 7-6 (5), 6-4.

The 13th-seeded Keys has not lost a set at Roland Garros.

While Putintseva regularly lost her composure, Keys stayed calm throughout and the big-hitting American secured victory on her first match point with a powerful serve which clipped Putintseva's racket and flew into the crowd.

Her box, including three-time major winner Lindsay Davenport, rose to acclaim Keys, who lost last year's U.S. Open final to friend and countrywoman Sloane Stephens.

Stephens soars

Stephens is also through to the semifinals, for the first time in her career.

The 10th-seeded American had little trouble beating No. 14 Daria Kasatkina 6-3, 6-1.

She clinched the victory on her first match point with a forehand winner from the baseline.

Stephens will face Keys in an all-American battle for a spot in the French Open final.

With files from The Canadian Press

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