Novak Djokovic offered words of praise for the ever-improving Daniil Medvedev after the top seed suffered a shock loss at the Monte Carlo Masters.
Medvedev booked a spot in the semi-finals with a deserved 6-3 4-6 6-2 triumph, capitalising on a slew of unforced errors from his opponent to claim what he admitted afterwards to be the biggest win of his career to date.
The Russian had lost the past three meetings between the pair, including a last-16 clash at this year's Australian Open.
Djokovic went on to win the grand slam in Melbourne but has struggled for form since. The Serb was not helped by conditions but refused to use that as an excuse for the loss, instead pointing to how much Medvedev has improved in the past 12 months.
"He's got a very solid backhand. He doesn't make many mistakes from the backhand. He hits it very low with depth," he said in quotes that appeared on the ATP Tour website.
"A windy day like today, conditions are changing every single game. It's kind of tough to find the rhythm, and he doesn't give you much rhythm.
"He improved his movement a lot since last year. He definitely deserves to be where he is."
Still, despite the unexpected result, the world number one is not in danger of losing top spot in the rankings.
Nearest rival Rafael Nadal made it through to the final four but even if the Spaniard goes on to retain his crown, Djokovic will extend his advantage having gone a round further in the tournament than he did in 2018.
MISSED OPPORTUNITIES COST PELLA
Nadal had made serene progress in his opening two outings but found Guido Pella a tough nut to crack in their quarterfinal.
Pella had three chances to take a 5-1 lead in the first set and also failed to serve out for the opener when 6-5 up, opportunities few can afford to waste against the 'king of clay'.
"I was lucky at 4-1, he had two points to be 5-1 and with 5-1 it's almost impossible," Nadal admitted.
"I was lucky to escape that moment and then I played better. I'm very happy to be through. Being in the semifinals again here means a lot to me."
Next up for Nadal will be Fabio Fognini, who fought back from a set down to beat Borna Coric 1-6 6-3 6-2 in the final match on court.
The Italian, seeded 13th, has reached the last four of the tournament once previously, losing to Djokovic in 2013.
While Fognini has been this far before, Dusan Lajovic is through to a Masters semi-final for the first time.
The world number 48 followed up his victory over Dominic Thiem by beating Lorenzo Sonego in straight sets. His reward is a clash against Medvedev, with Lajovic going into the contest still yet to drop a set this week.