PARIS (Reuters) - Whatever happens in his French Open semi-final against Dominic Thiem, Italian Marco Cecchinato believes his life will never be the same again.
Cecchinato, who was suspended for match-fixing two years ago, before his ban was overturned on appeal, arrived in Paris having not won a single Grand Slam match.
On Tuesday, he became the first Italian to reach the last four at a major in 40 years by beating 12-times Grand Slam champion and 2016 Roland Garros winner Novak Djokovic on Court Suzanne Lenglen.
“I think it’s changed my life. So after Roland Garros, I need some rest and to realise the moment, and we will see my life,” the world number 72, the lowest-ranked player to reach this stage at Roland Garros since Andrei Medvedev in 1999, told reporters.
To achieve that feat, Cecchinato, who in 2016 was suspended for 18 months for match fixing before his ban was lifted following a successful appeal, displayed an impressive range of claycourt tennis skills.
Against Djokovic, his sliding across the court was nearly perfect, as was his ability to disguise his angles until the last moment in what was perhaps the match of the tournament so far.
He cruised through the first set, held his nerve in the second set tiebreak, survived a comeback from former world number one Djokovic in the third, before prevailing in a highly-entertaining fourth-set tiebreak.
“It’s tough to describe my feelings,” he said. “Because now I need to realise the moment, because I will play the semi-final in Roland Garros. It is tough to talk about my emotions, very tough.”
Next up for the Sicilian is Austrian Thiem, the last man to beat claycourt master and 10-times French Open champion Rafa Nadal on his favourite surface.
“I won my last match against Dominic Thiem, I think it was in the final of a Future (third tier) tournament,” he joked.
“So I remember this match, and I want to believe I can also beat Dominic Thiem.”
Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Toby Davis