Basel (Switzerland): Top-ranked Novak Djokovic was stunned in the Swiss Indoors semifinals on Saturday, losing 2-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-0 to Japan`s Kei Nishikori.
Nishikori was overmatched in the first set but turned the match around by winning a thrilling rally when Djokovic was just two points from victory at 5-4 in the second.
The 32nd-ranked Nishikori, a wild card entry at the tournament, won the second-set tiebreaker then raced away with the final set for a career-best victory. He was already assured of his highest ever ATP ranking when the new list is published Monday.
"It`s unbelievable," said the 21-year-old. "In the second set I started playing well and getting a rhythm."
Djokovic was twice treated for pain in his right shoulder after having his serve broken, but praised Nishikori as a deserved winner.
"He was getting impossible balls back and really making me play every shot," said Djokovic, who was coming off a six-week break to treat a back injury. "He was better and I didn`t use the opportunities I had. I don`t think I should speak about that third set."
Djokovic dropped to 68-4 this year, with two of his losses the result of injury retirements.
Nishikori joins Roger Federer, in the French Open semifinals, as the only players to beat Djokovic in a full match in 2011.
Defending champion Federer was playing in the other semifinal against his doubles partner from the Beijing Olympics, Stanislas Wawrinka. The pair won gold for Switzerland at the 2008 games.
Nishikori was initially outclassed as Djokovic raced to a 5-1 lead, moving his opponent around the court with powerful ground strokes.
Djokovic then lost his serve and called for a medical timeout to treat his right shoulder. Pains in the same shoulder had prompted his retirement in the Cincinnati Masters final in August against Andy Murray.
However, Nishikori then found more service trouble — managing just a 24 percent first-serve rate in the opening set — and Djokovic took advantage.
Nishikori improved in the second set, and a break to lead 3-2 prompted Djokovic to again call for the trainer.
Djokovic was two points from victory when Nishikori showed tenacity to win a thrilling point that brought both men to the net, before Djokovic`s defensive volley went out.
In the tiebreaker, Nishikori profited from Djokovic`s wayward double-handed backhands. Nishikori dominated the decider and clinched it when Djokovic sent another backhand long.
Djokovic did not commit to playing at the Paris Masters, which starts Monday, though he would have a first-round bye.
"With this condition of the shoulder, I don`t think I will be able to practice in the next couple of days. It`s pretty bad," he said.
In their only previous meeting, Djokovic allowed Nishikori just nine games in a straight-sets win at Roland Garros last year.
Nishikori has just one career title, on hard courts at Delray Beach, Florida, in 2008, and previously reached one final this year. He lost to American Ryan Sweeting on clay in Houston in April.
He has enjoyed his best series of results since the U.S Open, beating eighth-ranked Jo-Wilfried Tsonga en route to a Shanghai Masters semifinals loss to Murray.
In Basel, he also recovered from losing the opening set to beat seventh-ranked Tomas Berdych in the first round.