Monte Carlo: Alexander Zverev celebrated his 21st birthday by edging a thrilling battle with French favourite Richard Gasquet to reach the Monte Carlo Masters semi-finals on Friday.
The German third seed came through a marathon final set under the lights just before 9 pm to win 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 after two hours and 39 minutes.
Gasquet's hopes of a first Masters semi-final appearance since 2013 were dashed in an incredible finish, and it will be Zverev who takes on Japan's Kei Nishikori in the last-four.
The world number four is looking for his third Masters title and hoping to bounce back from the disappointment of his final loss to John Isner in Miami.
Gasquet struggled to close out the first set and was broken when 5-2 in front, but did take it in the 10th game on his second set point with an exquisite drop shot.
The 31-year-old saw five break points come and go in the opening game of the second set, and Zverev took full advantage by moving 4-1 ahead.
The birthday boy wrapped up the set with ease to level the match, before breaking in the second game of the decider.
The pair then traded breaks of serve, both of which were sealed by rasping backhands up the line.
Gasquet provided a moment of brilliance to break again, finishing a sublime rally with a magnificent drop volley, only to fail to consolidate it in the following game.
The match looked destined to be decided in a tie-break, but Zverev broke French hearts with a fantastic backhand passing shot to grab his fourth win from four meetings with Gasquet.
In the earlier matches, defending champion Rafael Nadal thrashed Austrian fifth seed Dominic Thiem 6-0 6-2 to reach the semi-finals for a record 14th time.
It was a ruthless display from the 10-times champion, who will next face Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov for a place in the final. Nadal has to win the tournament to stop his rival Roger Federer regaining the top ranking.
Dimitrov made the most of a second-set collapse by David Goffin to reach the Monte Carlo semi-finals for the first time with a 6-4, 7-6(5) victory.
Nishikori needed four match points to put away second-seeded Marin Cilic 6-4, 6-7(1), 6-3 and reach his first Masters semi-finals since July 2016.
With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: Apr 21, 2018 15:26:33 IST