Austria’s Dominic Thiem dumped the seven-times champion Rafael Nadal out of the Italian Open 6-4 6-3 to reach the semi-finals.
Beaten twice by Nadal in the last three weeks, in Barcelona and in Madrid, Thiem made it third time lucky against the 30-year-old Spanish favourite, who was unbeaten on clay this year with 17 straight wins. Thiem will now play world number two Novak Djokovic or Argentina’s Juan Martín del Potro.
Rising German star Alexander Zverev earlier reached his first ATP Masters 1000 semi-final with a 7-6(4), 6-1 defeat of world number six Milos Raonic.
Zverev, 20, will face John Isner for a place in the final after the American beat Croatian Marin Cilic 7-6(3), 2-6, 7-6(2).
Meanwhile Maria Sharapova said on Friday she will not disturb the equilibrium at the All England Club by applying for a wildcard into the main draw – as good a pre-emptive strike as Napoleon might have conjured.
While she has already accepted an invitation to play in the Birmingham tournament which starts on 19 June and had earlier made the cut by right into the qualifiers for Wimbledon a week later, she will have suspected her chances of being ushered back to the scene of her first grand slam triumph without hitting a ball were on a par with getting an invite to the christening of Serena Williams’s first child.
“A few months ago, I received a wild card offer from Birmingham,” the Russian said, “which was one of my most memorable tournaments as a young player. I am so grateful and excited to be playing the event again! Because of my improved ranking after the first three tournaments of my return, I will also be playing the qualifying of Wimbledon in Roehampton, and will not be requesting a wildcard into the main draw.”
A minor fissure between the AELTC and the Lawn Tennis Association over what to do with Maria opened on Thursday when the LTA ignored the rumblings from SW19 that the rankings committee, headed by Tim Henman, was inclined to follow the lead of the French Tennis Federation and refuse her entry to the main draw.
So she will be back at the championships in Birmingham for the first time in seven years and, as part of the deal, will return next year. It would seem compromise and convenient amnesia have collided with pleasing serendipity for all concerned.
Her comeback from a 15-month suspension for failing a drugs test, which began amid locker-room disgruntlement at Stuttgart last month, faltered in Rome on Tuesday night when her tight left thigh forced her to quit when ahead in the third set against Mirjana Lucic-Baroni.
So now she is going to make history of another kind: the first former Wimbledon champion ever asked to come through the qualifying tournament. To her credit, she seems up for it â€” so much so she might yet do what nobody but she and her team would even dream was possible: win the title.
It is certainly not beyond her. She will have to come from outside the seedings and might possibly get a horrible draw, but such is her determination that such a challenge is more likely to lift her than quell her spirit. And to do so in the absence of Williams, who has tormented her through 19 victories from 20 encounters – six of them in slams, three in finals – since losing to her in the 2004 Wimbledon final, would make it doubly sweet.
As she reminded everyone on Twitter after Roland Garros turned its back on her this week: “If this is what it takes to rise up again, then I am in it all the way, every day. No words, games, or actions will ever stop me from reaching my own dreams. And I have many.”