Match Report

Terrific Tabilo topples Djokovic in Rome

Chilean seals biggest win of his career to reach fourth round
May 12, 2024
Tiziana Fabi/AFP via Getty Images
Alejandro Tabilo upsets Novak Djokovic in straight sets on Sunday in Rome. By ATP Staff

Alejandro Tabilo secured a major Sunday upset at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia, where he defeated six-time champion Novak Djokovic 6-2, 6-3 with a powerful third-round performance.

The 29th-seeded Chilean struck the ball cleanly off both wings throughout his maiden Lexus ATP Head2Head clash with Djokovic, who gave an uncharacteristically low-energy performance at the Foro Italico. Tabilo broke the Serbian’s serve four times and did not face a break point en route to a 68-minute victory in his first match against a No. 1 in the PIF ATP Rankings.

“It’s incredible,” said Tabilo. “I came on court just looking around, just trying to soak it all in and trying to process everything. I’m just trying to wake up right now.”

With his win, Tabilo advanced to the fourth round at a Masters 1000 event for the second time after he reached that stage in Indian Wells in 2023. The Chilean’s next opponent in Rome will be 16th seed Karen Khachanov, who earlier defeated Francisco Cerundolo 6-2, 6-4.

Sunday’s win is another milestone in an excellent 2024 so far for Tabilo, who arrived in Rome at a career-high No. 32 in the PIF ATP Rankings. The 26-year-old lifted his maiden ATP Tour trophy in the opening week of the season in Auckland, and he is now 17-9 for the season after also reaching a championship match on home soil in February in Santiago.

“I was just trying to keep my nerves in, trying to keep swinging," he said after beating Djokovic. "Obviously every time you feel like you are closer to the end, your arms start to get a little tighter and you start to swing shorter, so I was just trying to not think about it and take it point by point. It’s crazy, I can’t believe what just happened.”

Tabilo has also impressed in recent weeks on European clay. He reached the semi-finals in last month in Bucharest and last week prevailed from a stacked field to clinch the title at an ATP Challenger Tour 175 event in Aix-en-Provence.

Defeat in Rome leaves Djokovic still chasing his first title of the season. The 36-year-old is next set to chase his record-extending 25th major title at Roland Garros, where he is the defending champion.

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Djokovic was immediately under pressure on serve against Tabilo, who appeared eager to dictate play with his big lefty forehand. The top seed did not help himself with some wayward serving, and a pair of double faults gifted Tabilo the first game.

Tabilo continued to go for his shots and made scant few errors from the baseline and he seized control of the match. He hammered a forehand down-the-line to secure a double break at 3-0 and did not look back as he clinched the opening set.

Any Djokovic comeback attempt was immediately undermined in the opening game of the second set, when the 98-time tour-level champion again contributed two double faults, this time back-to-back from 30/30, to help Tabilo break. That proved to be the only window the Chilean needed, as he continued to stay solid on serve before claiming victory with a final break of serve, sealed with another Djokovic double fault.

“I think everybody who has been involved in the process [of my career], and my family, can’t believe it right now," said Tabilo. "They basically sent me in [to the match] with, ‘You’ve done a great job, it’s unbelievable that you’ve got this far’. So I don’t think anybody can believe it. I’m still trying to process everything, so it’s a crazy feeling.”

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