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Djokovic 'concerned' over shock Rome exit as French Open looms

Updated: 2024-05-14 09:27
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Novak Djokovic reacts during Sunday's loss in Rome. AP

ROME — Novak Djokovic described his shock third-round elimination from the Italian Open at the hands of Alejandro Tabilo on Sunday as "concerning", coming two days after he was hit on the head by a bottle, which he said has caused nausea and dizzy spells.

Djokovic's bid for a record-extending 41st Masters 1000 title was ended in just over an hour by Chilean Tabilo, who is ranked 32nd in the world and claimed his first win over a top-10 opponent, 6-2, 6-3.

The 24-time Grand Slam winner said that his subdued performance on a court where he has won six titles might have been due to the blow suffered while greeting fans on Friday night.

He had initially laughed off being accidentally struck on the head by a hard water bottle following his straightforward second-round win over Corentin Moutet, by wearing a cycling crash helmet to training on Saturday morning.

"I don't know, to be honest. I have to check that. Training was different. I was going for kind of easy training yesterday. I didn't feel anything, but I also didn't feel right," Djokovic told reporters.

"Today, under high stress, it was quite bad — not in terms of pain, but in terms of this balance. There was just no coordination. I was a completely different player from what I was two nights ago."

Djokovic also said that he would have scans to "see what's going on "before the French Open in Paris, where he will head not just worried about the after-effects of the bottle incident, but also his form.

The last season that Djokovic arrived at Roland Garros without yet having won a title was in 2018, when his first honor of the campaign came at Wimbledon.

With the French Open getting underway in two weeks, as the defending champion, Djokovic admitted that "everything needs to be better in order for me to have at least a chance to win" a 25th Grand Slam.

"The way I felt on the court today, it was just like a completely different player stepped into my shoes," added Djokovic. "It's a bit concerning."

Djokovic's early elimination means that the last top-flight men's tournament before Roland Garros is now wide open, with third seed Alexander Zverev beating home hope Luciano Darderi, ranked 54th in the world, 7-6 (3), 6-2.

Tabilo was a worthy winner against Djokovic after tearing into his superstar opponent, claiming the biggest win of his career in remarkable style by hitting 22 winners, making just four unforced errors and not facing a single break point.

"Honestly, at no moment was I like, 'OK, I can win this'," said a delighted Tabilo.

"I was playing incredible tennis, and just wanted to keep that level. The whole match I was just trying to take it point by point and not think about the score. Every point was like the start of the match."

In the women's competition, Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka will face Elina Svitolina for the first time since their handshake row at last year's French Open, after both players cruised into the last 16.

Second seed Sabalenka beat Dayana Yastremska, 6-4, 6-2 to set up a clash in the next round with Svitolina, a two-time winner at the Foro Italico, who comfortably beat Anna Kalinskaya 6-3, 6-3.

Svitolina accused Belarusian Sabalenka of inflaming tensions surrounding the Russia-Ukraine conflict by waiting at the net for a handshake after beating Ukrainian Svitolina in the Roland Garros quarterfinals in 2023.


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