Home Sports Novak Djokovic blames bottle to head for shock straight-sets defeat by Alejandro Tabilo

Novak Djokovic blames bottle to head for shock straight-sets defeat by Alejandro Tabilo

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Novak Djokovic loses in Italy

Djokovic is likely to be much more competitive at Roland Garros later this month – ALESSANDRO DI MEO

A “concerned” Novak Djokovic will undergo medical tests after feeling the effects of hitting the head with a bottle in his shocking exit from the Italian Open.

Djokovic was beaten 6-2 6-3 in just 67 minutes by Chilean Alejandro Tabilo in Rome, the six-time champion making 22 unforced errors, committing five double faults and failing to create a single break point.

The one-sided defeat came two days after Djokovic fell to the ground after be hit by a bottle which fell from a spectator’s backpack while the world number one was signing autographs.

“It was obviously unexpected. He wasn’t even looking up,” Djokovic said after his loss to Tabilo. “Then I felt a very strong blow to the head. Of course, it has really impacted me a lot. I’ve spent half an hour, an hour with nausea, dizziness, blood, a lot of different things.

“I managed to sleep well. I had headaches. The next day was pretty good, so I thought it was okay. Maybe it’s okay. Maybe it’s not.

“I mean, the way I felt on the court today was like a different player had stepped into my shoes. There is simply no rhythm, no tempo, no balance whatsoever to any shot.

“It’s a little worrying. I didn’t do any scans or any tests. Right now I feel like I should do it, so I’ll do it and we’ll see. Let’s see what’s happening.”

Djokovic’s latest loss was his fifth in 17 outings this year, so while he remains at the top of the world rankings, he is relatively low at 12th in the ATP’s “Race to Turin,” a table that only counts the results of the 2024 season.

This also means that Djokovic will go to the French Open, which starts in fifteen days – deal with an unprecedented lack of match practice.

With both World No. 2 Jannik Sinner and No. 3 Carlos Alcaraz unable to participate in the Italian Open due to hip and forearm injuries respectively, this French Open is shaping up to be the Grand Most open slam since the rise of the “Big Three.”

In all likelihood, Djokovic will find much better form when he plays for his 25th major title. But even a man of his class and experience could be vulnerable arriving in Paris with just six clay court matches under his belt this season.

We should pause for a second to give Tabilo, a Canadian playing under the Chilean flag, his due credit. While he is not a household name, Tabilo has risen enough to be seeded in the majors since he won his first ATP title in January.

Alejandro Tabilo of Chile celebrates after winning against Novak Djokovic of Serbia

Tabilo has the biggest scalp of his career to date – ALESSANDRO DI MEO

Tabilo’s left-handed forehand was on fire in this match, earning a quality rating of 9.8 out of 10 on the ATP Index. But it must be said that he delivered many juicy “meatballs” that looked very good in the middle of the court.

Bottle incident or not, Djokovic could hardly have communicated his lack of interest more clearly. He ran between points, often taking only 15 of the allotted 25 seconds when serving. There was no sign of the usual poker-face bounce of the ball, which he normally employs to focus his mind before throwing.

Nor did he look towards his player’s box, which was home to his newly appointed fitness coach Gebhard Gritsch in the absence of Goran Ivanisevic and Marco Panichi (both of whom left Djokovic’s camp in recent months). From time to time, he would flash a wry smile, as if amused by the absurdity of the sport he has dominated for the past decade.

There is certainly precedent for Djokovic rapidly improving his form. Last year, he lost to Holger Rune in the semi-finals in Rome, but he still told reporters that he was confident in his prospects in Paris, a prediction that proved accurate when he relaxed his pace. he beat Alcaraz with cramps at Roland Garros and then defeated Casper Ruud in the final.

But this has been a fun year for Djokovic, who has yet to reach a single ATP final and who had one of his worst Grand Slam performances against Sinner at the Australian Open in January.

Looking ahead to the 2024 clay court final, second division players like Ruud, Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas – all top finalists and regular top ten finishers – will surely feel emboldened by their chances.

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