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Tabilo's trek to breakthrough season

The 26-year-old is at career-high No. 28 in PIF ATP Live Rankings
May 14, 2024
Alejandro Tabilo greets fans in Rome, where he is into the quarter-finals.
Tiziana Fabi/AFP via Getty Images
Alejandro Tabilo greets fans in Rome, where he is into the quarter-finals. By Grant Thompson

The tennis world is witnessing the breakthrough of Alejandro Tabilo, who upset Novak Djokovic in Rome en route to his first ATP Masters 1000 quarter-final at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia.

While fans are becoming more familiar with the Chilean amidst a dream run in the Eternal City, Tabilo looks back on last November as a key turning point towards where he is today. The 26-year-old began working with a psychologist late last season and shortly after their partnership started, he won a pair of ATP Challenger Tour titles to close the year.

“We tried many different psychologists, but this one clicked. It helped me a lot in the part of overthinking everything, maybe on the stress level also,” Tabilo told at the Aix-en-Provence Challenger, held the week before Rome. “It’s been really helpful to just stay calm. We are still working [together]. Right now, it’s been a little bit less, once or twice a month. Last year it was almost every week. As everything has been going better, we’ve been taking it slower.”

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The biggest win of Tabilo’s career, defeating World No. 1 Djokovic 6-2, 6-3, followed by Tuesday’s hard-fought victory against 16th seed Karen Khachanov, is just the harvest of his hard work after he battled an arm edema injury the past two years.

Tabilo first felt pain in his arm at the beginning of 2022, two months prior to his Top 100 debut, and the discomfort refused to subside.

“The bone got really bruised and it was almost a stress fracture in the arm,” Tabilo said. “For a few months I was playing with constant pain but I didn’t know it was that bad. We had to stop for two, three months. It was a bit of struggle that whole year and I missed quite a bit of the season. I just had to be patient and try to recover as fast as possible.”

Five and a half months into this season, Tabilo has already earned a career-best 18 match wins on the ATP Tour. To open the year, he lifted his first tour-level trophy in Auckland, where as a qualifier he became the first Chilean to win a hard-court tour-level title since Fernando Gonzalez in 2007.

Tabilo, who also was a finalist at his home tournament in Santiago, arrived at the Foro Italico following a title run at the ATP Challenger Tour 175 event, the highest category at that level, in Aix-en-Provence.

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At a career-high No. 28 in the PIF ATP Live Rankings, a vast improvement from 12 months ago's No. 190 spot, Tabilo’s standout run on the Challenger circuit last season was the precursor to this year’s success.

Tabilo tallied a 41-13 season record on the ATP Challenger Tour with four titles, tied for second most last year. A pivotal point for the Toronto-born lefty came in early November, when Tabilo was crowned champion at the Guayaquil Challenger, beginning his run of winning 13 of his final 15 matches in 2023, including another title in Brasilia.

“I talk about it with my team, I think that title in Guayaquil was more important than the one in Auckland because we weren’t doing so well in the year,” said Tabilo, who will make his Roland Garros debut later this month. “That title, coming out of so many injuries, it was like a breakthrough feeling, like we were back in it.”

Seeded 29th in Rome, Tabilo will look to continue his run when he faces China’s Zhang Zhizhen in the last eight.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling. It’s been such hard work with the team, a lot of ups and downs," Tabilo said after beating Khachanov in the fourth round.

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