In his record 12th French Open quarter-final, Novak Djokovic will face a man he knows well, even if the rest of the world does not.
What a tale Marco Cecchinato (pronounced Cheh-key-NAH'-toe) can tell, though. He is a 25-year-old from Sicily once handed a match-fixing suspension later thrown out on appeal. His tour-level career record was 4-23 before this season. His grand slam record was 0-4 before last week.
Yet here he is, earning the right to face Djokovic for a spot in the semifinals at Roland Garros by eliminating No 8 seed David Goffin 7-5, 4-6, 6-0, 6-3 yesterday. Cecchinato's ranking of No 72 is the lowest in a decade for a man in the final eight at the French Open.
Asked whether he could have envisioned, even as recently as April, that he would get this far at a major tournament, Cecchinato answered with one word, "No," before breaking into a wide smile.
"For me, this is the best moment of my life."
Cecchinato and Djokovic, who meet tomorrow, have crossed paths often in Monte Carlo. Djokovic, a 12-time major champion, lives there; Cecchinato has worked on his game at an academy there.
"I have known of him for many years," Djokovic said after his 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 victory over No 30 Fernando Verdasco. "I know now his game and I practiced with him. I watched him play. For sure, he's playing the tennis of his life."
In July 2016, Cecchinato was one of three Italian players initially suspended by their national tennis federation for allegedly influencing the outcome of matches.
He was banned for 18 months and fined €40,000 (about $45,000), accused of losing on purpose during a lower-tier Challenger event at Morocco in 2015.
Cecchinato appealed, and the Italian Olympic Committee announced in December 2016 that the sanctions were dropped entirely.
"That year was a tough time. I want to think about the present. Now I want to enjoy the fantastic moment that I am living," he said.
Cecchinato certainly appeared to be appreciating every moment of his time yesterday. He chatted with himself during changeovers and dropping down on to the red clay after one last beautiful one-handed backhand winner on match point.
Asked if he thought that shot is more like Gustavo Kuerten's or Stan Wawrinka's, a pair of past French Open champions he said: "Honestly I want to be like Cecchinato."