Rafa Nadal now looks to be favourite to collect an unprecedented 10th Monte Carlo Masters title as the world number two followed his rival Andy Murray’s defeat of the previous day, with his own three set loss.
We had a lot of exchanges, a lot of rallies. David is playing very quick. He's a fast player Novak Djokovic
The Serbian, who was chasing his third title in the Principality, was unable to contain the exuberant play of the Belgian David Goffin who recovered well in the decider to clinch his first win over a top-three player, 6-2 3-6 7-5.
Like Murray on Thursday who let slip a 4-0 lead in the final set, Djokovic managed something similar for he was leading 4-2 in the third when Goffin put together a run to win five of the next six games to claim a well-earned victory on his fifth match point.
Djokovic acknowledged that he had plenty of chances but just failed to take his opportunities.
Speaking after his loss, the second seed said: "We had a lot of exchanges, a lot of rallies. David is playing very quick. He’s a fast player. I thought I played very, very well for a set and a half, from the start of the second set. I had my chances, I definitely did. I just didn’t use them.
It was Djokovic’s third match since having time off with an elbow injury and he still looked rusty but declared: You know, I was physically fine.
Now it is up to the former world number one, the King of Clay, to make the most of the opportunities which have fallen his way through the losses of Murray, Djokovic and the third seeded Stan Wawrinka, plus the absence of Roger Federer.
He made light work of his quarter-final match with Diego Schwartzman, dispatching the Argentine after just 100-minutes, 6-4 6-4 to go into the last four and a meeting with Goffin.
It wasn’t easy to find a real way to win, but I played much better in the last three-and-a-half games, more aggressive with my forehand, Nadal said. I am in the semifinals. That’s what I’m looking for, a great start to the clay-court season.
Nadal’s compatriot Albert Ramos Vinolas, Murray’s conqueror, will meet Frenchman Lucas Pouille in the other semi-final after their respective victories over Marin Cilic and Pablo Cuevas.
Ramos Vinolas upset another higher ranked player as he battled to a 6-2 6-7(5) 6-2 victory in just over two-and-a-half hours while Pouille overcame his Uruguayan opponent 6-0 3-6 7-5.