World number one Novak Djokovic, who was knocked out of the Madrid Open in the second round last week, lost 2-6, 7-5, 6-4 to Czech Tomas Berdych in the Italian Open quarter- finals on Friday.
The Serb’s defeat to the 27- year- old Berdych, comes a week before Roland Garros, the climax of the clay- court season. He has recently been troubled by pains in his ankle and will hope the pain subsides before the beginning of the French Open in a week’s time.
“I played very well and was two points from winning. Then the entire match changed,” Djokovic said.
“I know I can play well on clay and so I shouldn’t allow myself to have these drops,” Djokovic said of the French Open, the only major he has not won. “Let’s hope it won’t happen for Roland Garros. I’m fine. I just lost my rhythm.
“It’s a very strange situation.”
The Australian Open champion look set for a third Rome title when he took a 6-2, 5-2 lead, but Berdych broke Djokovic as he served for the match at 5-3.
World number six Berdych had previously lost twice to Djokovic this year, his only victory against the Serb was back in 2010 Wimbledon semi- final.
Rafael Nadal remained on course for a third straight title as he beat compatriot David Ferrer 6-4, 4-6, 6-2.
The 26- year- old Nadal had a difficult test from fellow countryman Ferrer who is trying to stay ahead of him at number four.
But the seven- time champion won through in two hours, forty- six minutes to proceed to the semi- finals.
Frenchman Benoit Paire also advanced to the semi- final, with a 6-1, 6-0 victory over Spaniard Marcel Granollers and now faces Rodger Federer for a place in the Rome final.
It was the 24- year- old Paire’s first Master Series semi- final of his career, up against 2nd- seed Federer who dispatched Polish rising star Jerzy Janowicz 6-4,7-6 (7-2) in an intense encounter with a sizzling second set.
A determined Janowicz broke Federer to take an early 2-0 lead in the second set but the Swiss used his skill at the net to break back at 5-5.
The match was decided in a tie- break which Federer wrapped up with some immense forehands- although the shot of the breaker was Janowicz’s slice volley.