Monaco: Reigning champion Rafael Nadal has produced a remarkable effort to defeat Guido Pella 7-6 (7-1), 6-2 and advance to the semi-finals at the Monte Carlo Masters.
The roller-coaster match on Friday tested Nadal both mentally and physically, but his eventual victory after two hours and 20 minutes ensured his bid for an unprecedented 12th title in Monaco continues unabated.
Nadal will face either Borna Coric or Fabio Fognini on Saturday in the last four, yet there will be no hoped-for final with Novak Djokovic after the Serb lost to Daniil Medvedev 3-6, 6-4, 2-6.
"It was very important for me to finish in two sets," Nadal said. "Losing the first three games was tough but I found a way at the right time. Sometimes these matches help for rhythm because you suffer."
Nadal imperiously won last year without conceding more than four games in a set. So Pella will have regrets, considering he was serving for a 5-1 first-set lead when he double-faulted.
"I was lucky to escape and then I played better," the Spaniard added.
Although Nadal won the next four games to level at 5-5, he dropped his wayward serve again. It gave Pella the chance to become the first player to take a set against him here since Britain's Kyle Edmund in the second round two years ago.
Pella reached 30-30 but Nadal broke back and forced a tiebreaker – his first here since a third-round win against John Isner in 2015.
Nadal was broken to love serving for the match, but Pella couldn't hold his serve either.
He saved one match point at 15-40 down but then double-faulted, with a relieved Nadal hugging him at the net.
Earlier, the 10th-seeded Medvedev was appearing in the last eight of a Masters tournament for the first time but Djokovic struggled more in the windy conditions.
The Serb double-faulted at 30-30 to give Medvedev his first match point and a backhand winner secured a first win against Djokovic at the fourth attempt, and a first victory against a world No.1.
"He played worse than before and I am gaining more experience," Medvedev said.
"He was not so good in the first set and made a lot of mistakes."
The world No.14 Medvedev is chasing a fifth career title. Djokovic has now failed to reach the last four in three straight tournaments, after also falling short at Indian Wells and Miami.
"I am lacking that determination to go for shots on some points," he said.
His 23-year-old Russian opponent next faces the unseeded Dusan Lajovic, who also reached a Masters semi-final for the first time when he beat Italian qualifier Lorenzo Sonego 6-4, 7-5.
Lajovic has not dropped a set so far. "I didn't expect this," the 28-year-old Serb said.
"I was sick before the tournament and taking antibiotics."