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'Concerned' Djokovic to undergo scans as shock Rome exit follows bottle drama

By AFP

May 12, 2024 09:39 PM


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Novak Djokovic described his shock third-round elimination from the Rome Open by outsider Alejandro Tabilo on Sunday as "concerning", 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 the same," Djokovic told reporters.

"Today under high stress, it was quite bad -- not in terms of pain, but in terms of this balance. Just no coordination. Completely different player from what it 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 by the after-effects of the bottle incident but also his form.

 'Different player' 

The last time Djokovic got to Roland Garros without a title to his name that season was in 2018, when his first honour of the campaign came at Wimbledon.

With the French Open getting underway in two weeks and where he is 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 was just completely like a different player entered into my shoes," added Djokovic. "It's a bit concerning."

Djokovic's early elimination is a blow for the last major tournament before Roland Garros which started without Italian world number two Jannik Sinner and third-ranked Carlos Alcaraz then lost ageing clay-court icon Rafael Nadal on Saturday.

It also leaves the men's tournament wide open with third seed Alexander Zverev taking on home hope Luciano Darderi, ranked 54th in the world, in the day's final match on centre court.

Tabilo was a worthy winner against Djokovic after tearing into his superstar opponent, racing into a 4-0 lead in the first set in less than 20 minutes and closing it out 10 minutes later.

He immediately broke Djokovic for the third time in the opening game of the second set and went on to claim the biggest win of his career in remarkable style, hitting 22 winners, making just four unforced errors and not facing a single break point.

Sabalenka strolls

 Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka cruised into the last 16 of the women's tournament with a straight-sets victory over Dayana Yastremska, 6-4, 6-2.

Second seed Sabalenka claimed her first win in four matches against Ukrainian Yastremska to set up a clash in the next round with either Elina Svitolina, a two-time winner at the Foro Italico, or Anna Kalinskaya.

The 26-year-old Belarusian made short work of Yastremska, dispatching her opponent in one hour and 28 minutes without dropping a service game and never looking in trouble.

Sabalenka, who has never won in Rome but is a two-time champion on the Madrid clay, looks in good shape to at least match her 2022 run to the semi-finals.

"Every time I was losing here, I was so sad," she told reporters.

"I felt like I lost on the Grand Slam because it was one of my dream tournaments to win."

Earlier fifth seed Maria Sakkari lined up a probable last-16 clash with Victoria Azarenka who faces 80th-ranked Egyptian Mayar Sherif later on Sunday.


AFP


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