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By Richard Pagliaro | @Tennis_Now | Sunday, May 12, 2024


Alejandro Tabilo stunned world No. 1 Novak Djokovic 6-2, 6-3 in one of the most surprising setbacks of Djokovic’s Rome career.

Photo credit: Dan Istitene-Getty

The service line was a fault line.

A rattled and unsettled Novak Djokovic was suffering seismic shock.

Tabilo: Moment I Knew I Could Beat Djokovic

Beaned by a fan’s water bottle after his opening win, world No. 1 Djokovic was booted out of Rome in shocking fashion today.

World No. 32 Alejandro Tabilo stunned Djokovic 6-2, 6-3 in one of the most surprising setbacks of Djokovic’s Rome career.

"It's incredible," Tabilo said after the victory, his first against any player inside the Top 10, let alone a World No.1 with 24 major titles to his name. "I'm still trying to process everything.

"I was just trying to keep my nerves in - it's crazy, I can't believe what just happened."

With his win Tabilo becomes the first man from Chile to defeat a World No.1 since 2007, when Fernando Gonzalez defeated Roger Federer at the season ending Masters Cup.

An erratic Djokovic double faulted away opening breaks in the first and second set then dumped his fifth double fault to end a wild and weird 67-minute upset that left some fans whistling.

"Congratulations to my opponent," Djokovic told the media in Rome. "It's the first time I faced him. 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."

Grand Slam king Djokovic has played pristine tennis at times seizing six Rome championships, the tournament frequently serving as a springboard to a brilliant summer.

Today, he was far from his best.

Djokovic repeatedly resorted to the drop shot from obscure areas of the court, double-faulted himself into oblivion and had no answers for the crackling Tabilo forehand.

You wonder if the water bottle off the head damaged Djokovic as this was such an uncharacteristically sloppy performance in a subpar season that has seen his team dissolve and his resolve tested by opponents who seem to have no fear of the 24-time Grand Slam champion.

The reigning Roland Garros champion said he felt out of sorts and will have his head checked.

"I have to check that," Djokovic said when asked if there was lingering damage from the bottle blow. "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 in terms of this balance. Just no coordination.

"[I was a] completely different player from what it was two nights ago. Could be. I don't know. I have to do medical checkups and see what's going on."

Yes, Djokovic was a shell of himself today—remember this seismic upset comes a day after Hubert Hurkacz hammered king of clay Rafael Nadal in straight sets—but credit Tabilo for recognizing the world No. 1 was reeling and vulnerable and knocking him out.

A jittery Djokovic got off to a horrific start facing triple break point in the first game. Djokovic dug in and saved all three, including sifting an exceptional backhand drop shot winner to save the third.

The 36-year-old Serbian superstar double faulted again to gift the break.

That game rattled Djokovic and settled Tabilo who proceeded to rip forehands with impunity.

Dancing left, Tabilo rocketed a forehand missile down the line blowing up the set with a 3-0 double-break lead just 13 minutes into the match.

The world No. 1 held to finally get on the board after 20 minutes for 1-4.

Unfazed, the Chilean crushed a crosscourt forehand to seal a strong hold for 5-1.

Tabilo tore through a love hold, capping a commanding 6-1 set in just 31 minutes.

The left-handed Chilean controlled the center of the court with that whiplash forehand, hitting 11 winners—four more than the top seed.

The Toronto-born Tabilo won 16 of 20 points played on his serve in the first set overwhelming Djokovic.

The six-time champion needed a jump-start but dug himself a deeper hole.

Slapping successive double faults, Djokovic ceded the break to start the second set.

A confident Tabilo cruised through eight of his next 10 points on serve stretching his lead to one-set, 3-1.

The Grand Slam king made a push in the sixth game going up 15-30. Tabilo answered by hammering the Serbian’s forehand with his heavy lefty forehand, running through three points in a row to hold for 4-2.

In a disappointing, yet somehow fitting, climax Djokovic dumped his fifth double fault to end it.

This seismic shock in Rome will have repercussions in Paris: world No. 2 Jannik Sinner and No. 3 Carlos Alcaraz both missed Rome nursing injuries. Now, Djokovic and Nadal are clearly very vulnerable and Court Philippe Chatrier looks like a wide open red-clay route.


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