Rome - World number one Novak Djokovic crashed to defeat at the Rome Masters at the hands of big-serving Tomas Berdych on Friday while Maria Sharapova withdrew from the women's event through illness.
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 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."
Berdych will now meet the winner of the quarter-final between David Ferrer and Rafael Nadal in Saturday's semi-finals.
Ahead of that challenge, the Czech said he put his past record against Djokovic to the back of his mind.
"I had the same motivation as in any other match so there was no question about looking for motivation," said Berdych.
"Even if the record with him wasn't good, one day you have to break it.
"Every streak has to finish some time, and I'm happy that it was today."
Nadal is the defending Rome champion but has come into this year's tournament seeded only fifth having missed seven months on the sidelines recovering from injury.
However, he has been in great form since his return to the tour in February, winning five titles and reaching seven finals.
Earlier French surprise package Benoit Paire continued his good run of form by qualifying for his first Masters semi-final with a 6-1, 6-0 win over Spaniard Marcel Granollers.
Number two seed Roger Federer will meet Poland's Jerzy Janowicz, seeded 24 in the ATP rankings, later Friday.
Maria Sharapova said the thought of not recovering in time to defend her French Open title had prompted her to pull out of the Rome Open before her quarter-final.
Sharapova, a two-time winner and the world number two, had been due to play Italy's Sara Errani, who she defeated in last year's French Open final.
However, the Russian announced her withdrawal on Friday morning, citing sickness and claiming she had run a temperature overnight.
"I've a lot on my schedule and they all mean a lot for me and obviously with the French Open coming up it is important to make smart decisions," said Sharapova, who was runner-up to Serena Williams in Madrid last weekend.
Sharapova said she felt physically under-par during her win over Sloane Stephens on Thursday, but that she had also been "a bit off" in Madrid last week.
"You could see it in my energy last night," she said. "I was already a bit off in Madrid and played through it and it came back last night and I got sick again.
"It's not smart to again compete two or three rounds to win the tournament and with Paris starting next week."
Asked whether the fact that it was her boyfriend's (Grigor Dimitrov) birthday on Thursday was a factor, she replied: "Is that a question or a comment? I don't think that has anything to do with it."
Top seed Williams, meanwhile, sailed through to her semi-final with a 6-2, 6-0 win over Spain's Carla Suarez Navarro.
It was the American's 22nd successive win this year.
Williams said she could understand Sharapova's decision to pull out. "It's definitely taking a chance and sometimes you might feel like preparing well for the Roland Garros, which is probably the most difficult Slam to win, and you want to give yourself the best chance and sometimes this is what you have to do."
Errani, the world number six, will now go through to the semi-finals to meet the winner of the match between Australia's Samantha Stosur and Victoria Azarenka of Belarus.
Romanian qualifier Simona Halep reached her first major semi-final, saving two match points on her way to beating Jelena Jankovic 4-6, 6-0, 7-5.
Williams awaits Halep in the semi-finals.