Who is Alejandro Tabilo? The inside story on Novak Djokovic’s conquerer

Kevin Palmer
Novak Djokovic beaten at the Italian Open
Novak Djokovic beaten at the Italian Open by Alejandro Tabilo

Alejandro Tabilo announced himself to the sporting world in the grand manner as he beat Novak Djokovic at the Italian Open, but what is the story behind the latest underdog to defeat the fading world No 1?

Chile’s Tabilo took full advantage of an error-strewn performance from world number one Djokovic to storm to a one-sided 6-2 6-3 victory in just 67 minutes, with Djokovic suggesting the bottle that struck him on the head after his first round match in Rome may have affected his balance and focus for the match against Tabilo.

Many have poured scorn on that theory, with doubts over Djokovic’s motivation to play in tournaments other than the Grand Slams now in serious doubt, but that is not an issue for Tabilo to concern himself with.

He will always have the name of the great Djokovic on his list of victims and when he reflected on the journey that took him to this moment in his career, he did so with real emotion.

“I was born in Toronto. I moved to the United States when I was 13,” he began.

“When I was around 18, I moved to Santiago. There basically my whole journey started there with a new team. Almost start from zero. There was like the change of rankings and stuff like that.

“Yeah, it’s been a pretty crazy ride. We were able to crack the top hundred I think like around two years ago. I got injured, so it’s been a tough journey since then.

“Had quite a few injuries that I had to stop playing for a couple months, then every so often would have to stop for a few weeks and stuff like that. It’s been tough to get that consistency.

“Lately have just been trying to work a lot on the fitness and the mental side. I think that’s been helping me a lot, being able to in some ways close these kind of matches.”

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Tabilo’s lack of profile is somewhat surprising considering he had risen to No 32 in the ATP Rankings prior to his victory against Djokovic, with that rating ensuring he will be seeded for Grand Slam events.

He is up to No 29 in the live tennis rankings and could leap even higher if he continues his heroics in Rome.

Whatever Tabilo achieves in his career, he may struggle to beat the feelings that rushed through him as he caused one of the biggest upsets of this tennis year, with the realisation he had beaten Djokovic hard to comprehend.

“This year I’ve been climbing the rankings. I’ve been playing with these higher-ranked players, the top 10s, top 20s and I’ve been struggling there a little bit trying to get a win,” he added.

“Just being able to beat Novak, him being No. 1 in the world, it’s surreal right now. Now I’ve just got to keep working, trying to stay with this momentum, with this confidence, try to finish off the year in top form.

“After the first set, I was pretty happy. I was playing incredible tennis. Just wanted to keep that level. With Novak, it’s always so tough with the physical side. I knew perfectly it could go for a third set in any moment.

“I don’t know. I think I started to kind of believe bit by bit when I was 3-2, 4-3 there, almost trying to close out the match.

“The whole match I was just trying to take it point by point, not think about the score. Every point was like the start of the match. I think that helped a lot, let me play a little bit more relaxed.”

Alejandro Tabilo will always be remembered as the outsider who defeated the great Djokovic in a manner many described as humiliating for the world No 1.

Now this humble 26-year-old needs to ensure his career is remembered for more than just one glorious moment in the tennis spotlight.