Novak Djokovic crashed out of the French Open and then cast doubt over whether he will play at Wimbledon.
The 12-time grand slam winner was stunned in the quarter-finals at Roland Garros by world No 72 Marco Cecchinato.
Unseeded Italian Cecchinato won in four sets, scrambling over the line in an epic tie-break on his fourth match point. Afterwards a dazed Djokovic, who has struggled with injury for much of the last year, was asked when he planned to make his first grass-court appearance.
He replied: “I don’t know. 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. 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 Serbian needed lengthy treatment on a neck problem after dropping the first set.
But Cecchinato proved an even bigger pain in the neck for the 2016 Paris champion.
Djokovic had two set points at 6-5 in the second but went on to lose the tie-break.
Cecchinato was mixing things up to great effect, tying Djokovic to the baseline while throwing in regular, at times remarkable, spin-heavy drop-shots from the back of the court.
Yet Djokovic won the third set at a canter, and a suddenly frustrated Cecchinato was hit with a point penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.
The storm seemed to have blown itself out and Djokovic served for the fourth set at 5-3. But from somewhere Cecchinato got a second wind, breaking back and forcing a tie-break.
It was a classic, Djokovic wasting three set points and Cecchinato unable to take the first of three for the match.
But on number four Djokovic left a looping backhand return which landed just in and Cecchinato celebrated a famous victory, 6-3, 7-6 (7/4), 1-6, 7/6 (13-11).
Cecchinato had not won a single grand slam match until he arrived at Roland Garros, but the 25-year-old is now the first Italian to reach the semi-final since Corrado Barazzutti 40 years ago.
He said: “Maybe I’m sleeping. It’s amazing. It’s unbelievable for me. For me to beat Djokovic in a quarter-final at Roland Garros it’s amazing. For me, it’s the first time semi-final grand slam. Now I need to think for the semi-final and I need some rest for recovery. I am very happy.”
Next up for Cecchinato is No 7 seed Dominic Thiem of Austria, who beat second seed Alexander Zverev, pictured, in their quarter-final.
Zverev had fought through three consecutive five-setters and spent almost two and a half hours longer on court than Thiem on his way to the last eight. So it came as no surprise when the 21-year-old German, in the quarter-finals of a grand slam for the first time, began to cramp up badly.
He suffered a muscle injury in his leg during the first set and had it heavily strapped up by the trainer during the second.
Canny Thiem consistently served wide to get his opponent stretching before working him all around the court.
Zverev needed more running repairs at the start of the third set but it was to no avail, Thiem ending his entertaining run with a comprehensive 6-4, 6-2, 6-1 victory.
“How close was I to pulling out? I thought about it. I definitely thought about it,” said Zverev. “But, you know, I didn’t want to pull out for the first time of my career in a grand slam quarter-final.
“I knew I wasn’t going to win the match. There was no way for me. I mean, I could barely move. I couldn’t serve. I couldn’t really do anything.
“But I still wanted to finish the match and kind of give the credit to Dominic. He deserves to be in the semi-finals. End on a loss and not on a retirement.
“I actually felt good today. Waking up in the morning, I actually felt ‘Okay I can play five sets again’. I thought it was going to be a tough, physical match, but unfortunately my body didn’t hold up.”
For Thiem a third consecutive Paris semi-final beckons.
“It was tough for him today, he’s one of the fittest guys on tour,” said Thiem. “It’s tough to play three five-setters in a row.
“I hope that we have many more encounters against each other at this stage or even later in a grand slam.”