ROME - World number one Novak Djokovic crashed out of the Rome Masters at the hands of big-serving Tomas Berdych yesterday while Maria Sharapova withdrew from the women's event through illness.
But Rafael Nadal stayed on course for a seventh title in the Italian capital with a three-set triumph over Spanish compatriot David Ferrer.
Berdych, who had beaten top-seeded Djokovic only once in their last 14 meetings, prevailed 2-6 7-5 6-4 to book himself an unlikely place in the semi-finals against Nadal and boost his chances ahead of the French Open which gets underway on May 26.
"I lost this match by myself," admitted Djokovic, who had led by a set and 5-2 and had suffered a second round loss to Grigor Dimitrov at last week's Madrid Masters.
"I just lost a bit of concentration. I started playing more defensively.
"The match turned around, he gained confidence and I had a few unforced errors.
"At this level you have to take the opportunities when they come to you."
Defending champion Nadal came through a tough quarter-final against Ferrer prevailing 6-4 4-6 6-2 in a 2hr 46min slug-fest.
It was Nadal's second win over Ferrer inside a fortnight.