The Suzanne-Lenglen court in Paris saw a match for the ages as 2016 French Open champions Novak Djokovic went down to world No.72 Marco Cecchinato in the quarter-final on Tuesday.
His opponent, however, was the stronger in an epic fourth-set tiebreak, prevailing 6-3 7-6 (4) 1-6 7-6 (11) on his fourth match point after more than three hours of high-octane tennis.
Cecchinato even overcame a point penalty served to him by the chair umpire in the fourth set, said to have left the court without proper permission after the third, per Christopher Clarey of the New York Times.
Told in an on-court interview that he wasn't dreaming, Cecchinato responded: "Are you sure?"
Verdasco, who beat fourth seed Grigor Dimitrov in straight sets in the previous round, needed treatment for blisters as Djokovic was made to wait before serving out for two-love lead.
Japan's Kei Nishikori, meanwhile, made short work of home hope Gilles Simon as he cruised into the fourth round for the fifth time.
German second seed Alexander Zverev and Novak Djokovic edged closer to a possible French Open semi-final clash of generations, with the youngster edging out Karen Khachanov and the former champion seeing off Fernando Verdasco in the last 16 on Sunday.
The 12-time grand slam victor was stunned in the quarter-finals at Roland Garros by world No.72 Marco Cecchinato.
In the women's quarterfinals, No. 10 Sloane Stephens beat No. 14 Daria Kasatkina of Russian Federation 6-3, 6-1, and No. 13 Madison Keys eliminated unseeded Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan 7-6 (5), 6-4.
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Next up for the Sicilian is Austrian Thiem, the last man to beat claycourt master and 10-times French Open champion Rafa Nadal on his favourite surface.
That Cecchinato would be a semifinal participant was far harder to predict.
Djokovic, seeded 20th, won 6-3 6-4 6-2 against 30th seed Verdasco.
Despite defeat, he showed real class by racing round to the other side of the net to congratulate the Italian - who will peak at a career-high world No. 27 after advancing. Indeed, his seeding of No. 20 was his lowest at any Grand Slam tournament in a dozen years.
'And the one that won deserved to win the match, and that was Marco today.
A jaw-dropping forehand wrong-footed the Serbian and Cecchinato had a second match point, saved by Djokovic on serve.
"I'm just not thinking about tennis at the moment".
Cracking winners from the baseline, especially on his stunning one-handed backhand, and carving drop shots into the clay, Cecchinato held his nerve under the most intense pressure to claim the victory of his career.
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