Novak Djokovic blames Italian Open exit on being hit by a bottle

Staff Writers
Novak Djokovic had a bad day at the Italian Open as he slumped to a shock defeat in Rome. (AP PHOTO)
Novak Djokovic had a bad day at the Italian Open as he slumped to a shock defeat in Rome. (AP PHOTO) Credit: AP

Chile’s Alejandro Tabilo has caused a sensation by trouncing world No.1 Novak Djokovic in the third round of the Italian Open in just 67 minutes -- just two days after the Serbian was accidentally hit on the head by a fan’s water bottle.

Djokovic looked far from his best in the “concerning” defeat on Sunday and blamed Friday’s incident for his 6-2 6-3 loss.

“That has really impacted me a lot. After that, I got medical care, been through half-an-hour, an hour of nausea, dizziness and blood,” Djokovic told a news conference, adding that he would go for scans later.

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“I managed to sleep okay, I had headaches. The next day, or yesterday, was pretty fine, so I thought it’s okay. 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. It’s a bit concerning.”

The accident happened when a fan’s water bottle fell out of his backpack while he was leaning over railings to get an autograph following Djokovic’s second-round win.

Djokovic has won the tournament six times, with his last title coming in 2022, but he was clearly far from his normal self as Tabilo broke the top seed four times on Centre Court while not conceding a single break point.

The victory made the 26-year-old Tabilo -- who won a Challenger Tour tournament two weeks ago -- the first Chilean in 17 years to beat a world No.1 since Fernando Gonzalez beat 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,” said Tabilo, the world No.32.

The result also means Djokovic -- who made a double fault on match point -- has failed to reach a single final in 2024 and has played only six matches on clay in the build-up to the French Open.

The Serbian had reached the semi-finals of the Monte Carlo Masters but a premature exit in Rome could hamper his preparations for Roland Garros where the year’s second grand slam begins on May 26.

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

Djokovic followed Rafael Nadal to an early exit after the record 10-time Rome champion lost his third-round match to Hubert Hurkacz 6-1 6-3 on Saturday.

It left the Spaniard admitting he was in two minds even whether to compete at the French Open.


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