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By Richard Pagliaro | @Tennis_Now | Sunday, May 12, 2024
Sometimes, players sense upsets in the making

After Alejandro Tabilo scored a massive 6-3, 6-2 upset of world No. 1 Novak Djokovic in Rome today, he shared the moment he knew he would win.

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It came when umpire Manuel Messina announced "Game, set and match Tabilo" after a masterful 67-minute upset.

"My team was asking me that just now, asking me, When did you realize you could maybe win?" Tabilo told the media in Rome. "Honestly in no moment was I like, Okay, I can win this.

"After the first set, I was pretty happy. I was playing incredible tennis. Just wanted to keep that level. With Novak, it's always so tough with the physical side. I knew perfectly it could go for a third set in any moment.

"I don't know. I think I started to kind of believe bit by bit when I was 3-2, 4-3 there, almost trying to close out the match. The whole match I was just trying to take it point by point, not think about the score.

"Every point was like the start of the match. I think that helped a lot, let me play a little bit more relaxed."

Of course, six-time Rome champion Djokovic contributed to his own demise double-faulting away three service breaks, including his fifth double fault on match point that ended it.

Afterward, Djokovic, who was beaned by a bottle that fell from a fan's bag after his opening win, conceded he felt uncoordinated and out of sorts on court, leading to speculation perhaps he was suffering damage from the bottle blow.

"Congratulations to my opponent. It's the first time I faced him," Djokovic said of Tabilo. "Great player. Really quality player. All-around game.

"Yeah, I just wasn't able to find any kind of good feelings on the court, to be honest, with striking the ball. Yeah, I was completely off."

World No. 32 Tabilo was so stunned by his first career Top 10-win, he could barely speak when talking to his girlfriend and family afterward. 

Tabilo is the first Chilean to defeat a World No. 1 since Fernando Gonzalez rode his lightning forehand toppling No. 1 Roger Federer at the 2007 Nittto ATP Finals.

The Toronto-born Tabilo, who moved to the United States at 13 and then settled in Chile at about age 18, said his father showed him videos of Chilean heroes Nicolas Massu, Marcelo Rios and Gonzalez as inspiration in his younger years.

Now, those retired Chilean champs are in his corner mentoring him via text or, in Massu's case, in person.

"They were very, very important with my family. I remember always from a young age watching Massu, Gonzales, my dad showing me YouTube videos of Rios," Tabilo said. "It helped me from a young age. Now when I started living in Chile, got to know better Gonzales and Massu, they've always been very helpful, always been there watching my matches, giving me tips, especially Massu who is Davis Cup captain.

"He's always very into watching us and how we're developing. Even Rios sends me messages every now and then, see how I'm doing, always saying congratulations. It's always nice to have that support from everybody."

Photo credit: TTV