Rome: World number two Novak Djokovic succumbed to Fernando Verdasco for the second time in two weeks on Friday when he lost an enthralling Rome Masters quarter-final 7-6, 3-6, 6-4.
Djokovic was thrashed by in-form sixth seed Verdasco in the semi-finals of the Monte Carlo Masters in their last meeting and the match looked like it might follow a similar plot early on.
The Serb was under constant pressure, slamming his racket down in frustration after being pushed around in a rally before caving in on serve in the seventh game.
Djokovic, the 2008 Rome champion, responded bravely though, breaking when Verdasco was serving for the set. The pair traded breaks again before the Spaniard took the set in the tiebreak.
Djokovic did not panic and read his opponent`s meaty serve skilfully in the second set to break three times to one and claim it.
But Verdasco had a little more in the tank, even though he has played a lot of tennis recently after winning last week`s Barcelona Open, and prevailed with an ace after three hours and 17 minutes of big-hitting action.
His reward is a semi-final against the winner of the match between compatriot David Ferrer and Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Holder Rafael Nadal seeking his fourth Rome title in five years faces Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka in his last-eight match later on Friday.
World number one Roger Federer, who lost his opening match in the singles on Tuesday, was knocked out of the doubles in the quarter-finals along with compatriot Yves Allegro by American pair John Isner and Sam Querrey, 6-4, 6-4.