Rome | Djokovic crashes out

Novak Djokovic, the six-time champion of Rome, will have to wait another year to try and improve on that tally at the Rome Masters following his dramatic straight sets, third-round loss on Sunday to Alejandro Tabilo.

Today under high stress it was quite bad, not in terms of pain but just in terms of dis-balance. Just no coordination. Just completely different player from what I was two nights ago Novak Djokovic

It was certainly the shock of the day as the fifth Masters of the season reaches its second week, but it is now the Chilean Tabilo who tops the draw into the last 16 after defeating the favourite 6-2 6-3 in 67-minutes.

For Tabilo, the Auckland champion, it is the best result of his career and to give him his due, he retained his concentration throughout and wasn’t distracted by the poor performance on the other side of the net.

For it certainly wasn’t the performance of a world No.1. He was lethargic, his serving lacked its usual snap and accuracy, and his ground shots were weak for a player who has built his reputation on being ruthless on court. On match point he delivered his fifth double fault having made 22 unforced errors and just 15 winners. On the other side Tabilo made 15 unforced errors with 22 winners.

The 36-year-old Serbian has not had the best of seasons having skipped a number of events for various reasons which has left fans wondering at his motives, more especially as he loves to set records.

So far he has competed in five events, won 12 matches and surprisingly, has not featured in any title round since last year’s ATP Finals.

He looked set to reverse that trend in Rome with a comfortable 6-3 6-1 over Frenchman Corentin Moutet in his opening match, only to suffer an unfortunate accident whilst signing autographs when leaving the Court Central, when a metal water bottle fell from the stands and struck him on the head.

He received immediate medical attention and within a few hours the organisers announced in a statement that the Serbian’s ‘condition is not a cause for concern.’

And that was certainly the message received by fans when on Saturday, Djokovic humorously acknowledged the incident by arriving at the Foro Italico wearing a crash hat thereby dismissing any possible problems!


Alejandro Tabilo is congratulated by Djokovic

(Photo by Tullio Puglia/Getty Images)

However, the after-effects seemingly manifested themselves a day later in that poor performance.

“I don’t know to be honest, I have to check that,” Djokovic said. “Because I felt yesterday training was different, I was going for kind of easy training yesterday. I didn’t feel anything but I also didn’t feel the same.

“Today under high stress it was quite bad, not in terms of pain but just in terms of dis-balance. Just no coordination. Just completely different player from what I was two nights ago.

“Could be. I don’t know. I have to do medical checkups and see what’s going on.”

He said he also experienced nausea and dizziness after the incident itself.

“It was a very unfortunate, unlucky situation for me,” Djokovic continued. “It was an accident where that guy leaned over the fence and the bottle dropped from his rucksack and landed directly on my head.

“It was unexpected, obviously. I wasn’t even looking up. Then I felt a very strong hit in the head. That really impacted me a lot. After that I got the medical care. Been through half an hour of nausea, dizziness, blood and a lot of different things.

“I managed to sleep okay. I had headaches. But the next day or yesterday was pretty fine, so I thought it’s okay. But maybe it is okay. Maybe it’s not. The way I felt on the court today was just completely like a different player entered into my shoes. Just no rhythm, no tempo, no balance whatsoever on any shot. So it’s a bit concerning.”


Alejandro Tabilo is amazed at the result

(Photo by Giampiero Sposito/Getty Images)

Nonetheless one shouldn’t overlook Tabilo’s own performance. He played brilliantly against an opponent who had 93 titles to his credit and had dominated the sport for much of the past decade. He faced a huge hurdle.

Tabilo broke the top seed four times on Court Central while not conceding a single break point to become the first Chilean in 17 years to beat a world No.1 since Fernando Gonzalez defeated Roger Federer at the ATP Finals in 2007.

“It’s incredible. I came on court just looking around and soaking it all in, trying to process everything. I’m trying to wake up right now,” Tabilo, the world No.32, admitted.

With the French Open – the second Grand Slam of the year – due to start on May 26, Djokovic doesn’t have much time to get in some practice having now played just six matches on clay in his build up to Roland Garros.

When asked about his chances, Djokovic replied: “Everything needs to be better for me to have at least a chance to win it.”

In other action, Karen Khachanov defeated Argentina’s Francisco Cerundolo 6-2 6-4 to face Tabilo in the last 16

China’s Zhizhen Zhang took out the 12th seeded American, Ben Shelton 6-2 6-4 and the Brazilian qualifier Thiago Monteiro outlasted Serbia’s Miomir Kecmanovic 6-2 4-6 7-6(6). The two will now meet in the next round.

Also through are Alexander Zverev, the third seed from Germany who will take on the unseeded Portuguese Nuno Borges, the former having beaten Italy’s Luciano Darderi 7-6(3) 6-2 and the latter the home qualifier Francesco Passaro 6-3 6-4.

Finally Grigor Dimitrov (8) will face Taylor Fritz (11) in what should be the match of the day in that half of the draw. The Bulgarian defeated the French qualifier Terence Atmane 7-6(3) while the American overcame his compatriot Sebastian Korda 6-3 6-4.


Zhizhen Zhang plays a backhand as he reaches the last 16



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