Novak Djokovic suffered his third straight pre-semifinal loss in a Masters on Friday after being stunned by 14th-ranked Daniil Medvedev 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 in the Monte Carlo quarterfinals.
On a breezy day, the top seed struggled on serve getting broken twice in the opening set and three times in the deciding, and in several cases he was leading big in those games.
“He’s got a very solid backhand. He doesn’t make many mistakes from the backhand. 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,” Djokovic said. “He improved his movement a lot since last year. He definitely deserves to be where he is.”
Djokovic has failed to reach the semifinals at all three Masters events his season.
The 23-year-old Medvedev collected his first win over a World No. 1 and just second Top 10 victory. He had just two career clay match wins at tour level entering the week.
“It’s definitely the best match of my career. Not in terms of level of tennis, but definitely by the result. [It’s my] first Masters 1000 semi-final, beating No. 1 for the first time in my life,” Medvedev said. “Just amazing.”
Even more amazing is Medvedev’s draw. In his first Masters semi, he’ll face another first time final four participant at this level, the 48th-ranked Dusan Lajovic. Djokovic’s countryman edged qualifier Lorenzo Sonego 6-4, 7-5 to reach his biggest career semifinal. And he’s done so without dropping a set.
“Right now it’s a relief and I showed to myself that I could do it. The tournament is still not over but I’m extremely happy and satisfied with the way I’ve played this week,” the 28-year-old Lajovic said. “To be in the semifinals of a Masters, such a strong tournament, it’s really a big boost of confidence and I hope that it’s not the only one for the future.
Medvedev beat Lajovic in their only previous meeting last year indoors in Moscow.
Rafael Nadal kept it rolling, though it was a little tougher than expected in a 7-6(1), 6-3 win over fellow-lefty Guido Pella who held a break lead in the first at 4-1.
“It was a very tough first set physically and mentally, too. Losing the first three games with my serve was tough. But I found a way at the right time,” Nadal said. “I was lucky at 4-1, he had two points to be 5-1 and with 5-1 it’s almost impossible. I was lucky to escape that moment and then I played better… I’m very happy to be through. Being in the semifinals again here means a lot to me.”
The 11-time Monte Carlo champion has won his last 18 matches at the event, and overall 15 straight on clay.
Next for Rafa will be someone who has defeated him on his favorite surface, Fabio Fognini. The Italian, though, should count his lucky stars as he found himself down and out a set and a break to the bad against Borna Coric before rallying for a 1-6, 6-3, 6-2.
Fognini won 12 of the last 15 games to deny the Croat.
“I think I was a little bit lucky,” said Fognini, who will face 11-time champion Rafael Nadal in the last four. “I’m happy because I’m playing my second semi-final here. Happy because of course I’ve tried to do my best all week and now it’s time to play with a really good player.”
Nadal leads Fognini 11-3 with all three losses in 2015.
“Everywhere it’s difficult with him. I’ll just try to enjoy this match, try to recover as best I can, eat well, sleep well, play with Federico (son) a little bit before I sleep and tomorrow is another day,” Fognini said. “I’ll try to do my best game. I know that it’s difficult, but I have the game to play against him.”
It’s the 31-year-old Fognini’s third career Masters semifinal, second in Monte Carlo after 2013.
“He’s one of the biggest talents in this sport,” said Nadal of Fognini. “He’s able to win against anybody when he’s playing well and I believe he’s playing well.”
Nadal is the only player of the remaining four to have reached a Masters final.
SATURDAY MONTE CARLO SCHEDULE
COURT RAINIER III start 11:30 am
Robin Haase (NED) / Wesley Koolhof (NED) vs  Jamie Murray (GBR) / Bruno Soares (BRA)
Not Before 1:30 pm
 Daniil Medvedev (RUS) vs Dusan Lajovic (SRB)
Not Before 3:30 pm
 Fabio Fognini (ITA) vs  Rafael Nadal (ESP)
Maximo Gonzalez (ARG) / Horacio Zeballos (ARG) vs  Nikola Mektic (CRO) / Franko Skugor (CRO)
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