MONTE CARLO, Monaco - Novak Djokovic was knocked out of the Monte Carlo Masters by an inspired Dominic Thiem in the third round on Thursday, with the Austrian fifth seed progressing to a possible quarter-final with Rafael Nadal.
Thiem, a two-time French Open semi-finalist, was the better player for much of the match and won 6-7 (2/7), 6-2, 6-3 despite a battling effort from Djokovic.
The 12-time Grand Slam champion has still not reached a quarter-final since Wimbledon last July after struggling with an elbow injury.
Djokovic, 30, had said he was pain-free in Monte Carlo for the first time in two years, but Thiem backed up his French Open quarter-final win over the Serbian from last year with another impressive victory.
The 24-year-old will take on either world number one Nadal or Russian Karen Khachanov in the quarter-finals.
World number seven Thiem laid down a marker in the opening stages, holding to love before breaking the Djokovic serve with a clean forehand winner.
Djokovic faced a set point on his own serve when trailing 5-2, but saved it with a volley to force Thiem to serve for the opener.
Thiem brought up two more set points, only for his forehand to break down with two errors, before a double fault gave Djokovic the chance to break back.
The ninth seed grabbed that opportunity as Thiem miscued again, celebrating exuberantly in front of a delighted crowd as the set went to a tie-break.
And Thiem continued to throw in a series of poor shots, double faulting on Djokovic's first set point as the 30-year-old took the breaker 7-2.
The first few games of the second set went with serve, but Thiem broke for a 3-2 lead on his third break point of the game when Djokovic scooped a wayward backhand off target.
Djokovic, now ranked 13, missed a chance to level immediately and Thiem then continued his momentum to break the faltering Serbian again.
Despite another double fault, Thiem banished the first-set jitters to close out the set at the first time of asking and force a decider.
The key moment came in the seventh game of the third set, when Djokovic lost a 40-15 lead and Thiem broke with a venomous backhand up the line.
And the Austrian closed it out with another break on his second match point.