(Reuters) - Defending Monte Carlo champion and world number one Novak Djokovic suffered his earliest tournament defeat for three years when 55th-ranked Czech Jiri Vesely beat him in the second round of the Masters tournament on Wednesday.
Vesely won 6-4 2-6 6-4 in what was his first meeting with the Serb. It was the 22-year-old's maiden victory against a top-10 opponent after eight previous failures.
"It's the dream of every single player to beat a world number one,” Vesely said. “For me, it's definitely a dream come true.
“When I went on court, I was hoping to win a game or to do well. But I really had no idea that I really would be able to beat Novak today. I still can't believe it happened.”
Djokovic had tightened his iron grip on the sport in recent months, winning nine of his last 10 tournaments, with the only blemish coming when he was forced to retire against Feliciano Lopez in Dubai due to an eye problem.
Wednesday's defeat was his earliest on the tour since he lost in the second round of the Madrid Open in 2013 and is a significant blip in his preparations for May's French Open, the only grand slam to have eluded the 11-times major winner.
"It's been a tough four or five months, so I need time to recharge," Djokovic told reporters.
Vesely held his nerve to hold off a Djokovic comeback, after the Serb had won four straight games from 2-2 in the second set to level the match.
The Czech regrouped in the decider and served it out to claim a stunning win in just over two hours before receiving a rapturous reception from the crowd.
Writing by Toby Davis; Editing by Ed Osmond