Novak Djokovic loses in Italian Open after ‘nausea, dizziness’ from taking bottle to head

In Novak Djokovic’s career, the 2024 Italian Open will be remembered as the bottle tournament.

The one when an innocuous task of signing autographs turned frightening when a water container fell out of a backpack and smashed into his head.

The one where he showed up the next day wearing a bike helmet — smiling, laughing and amusing fans outside the venue.

And, ultimately, the one where the head injury made Djokovic “completely like a different player” for his third-round match, which he lost in straight sets Sunday to No. 29-seeded Alejandro Tabilo, 6-2 6-3.

“That has really impacted me a lot,” Djokovic told reporters of the incident, according to ESPN. “After that I got medical care, been through half-an-hour, an hour of nausea, dizziness and blood. I managed to sleep OK. I had headaches. The next day, or yesterday, was pretty fine, so I thought it’s OK. Maybe it is OK, maybe it’s not.

5 Novak Djokovic lost in straight-sets for an early exit at the Italian Open. AFP via Getty Images

“The way I felt on the court today was just completely like a different player entered into my shoes. Just no rhythm, no tempo, no balance whatsoever on any shot. It’s a bit concerning.”

The match against Tabilo — a 26-year-old player who won the first ATP title of his career earlier this year at the Auckland Classic — lasted just 68 minutes, and Djokovic committed five double-faults, never forced Tabilo to the verge of a break point and committed 12 unforced errors.

He had never exited the Italian Open before the quarterfinals, according to ESPN, and in those losses, Djokovic had never fallen to a player ranked outside the top-10.

5 Novak Djokovic was hit in the head by a water bottle while

signing autographs for fans Friday. Screengrab via X/@josemorgado

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

The disastrous tournament opened with a straight-set win against Corentin Moutet in the Round of 64 at Forto Italico.

As he left the court, Djokovic stopped to sign autographs for fans, inking his signature on a hat and a sheet of paper before a water bottle — positioned inside a backpack — fell out of its holder and smacked the 36-year-old’s head.

5 Novak Djokovic lost his first match after getting hit in the head by a water bottle at the Italian Open. AFP via Getty Images

5 Novak Djokovic arrived Saturday wearing a bike helmet. Screengrab via X/@DjokerNole

He immediately covered his head and eventually lowered himself toward the ground.

Despite having blood on his head, Djokovic didn’t need to get stitches, according to the Associated Press, and the Serbian tennis star wrote in a post on X that he was “fine” and icing at the hotel.

The tournament also noted in a statement Friday that the bottle “accidentally” hit Djokovic’s head.

5 Novak Djokovic suffered the earliest Italian Open defeat of his career. AP

He then arrived Saturday wearing a bike helmet, writing in another post that, “Today I came prepared.”

Djokovic, who has won 24 Grand Slam titles, dropped a semifinals match to Jannik Sinner at the Australian Open earlier this year, and he has two weeks remaining until the French Open — his latest chance to snap a tie with Margaret Court for the all-time Grand Slam titles record — begins.

His exit Sunday, though, wasn’t exactly encouraging.

“Everything needs to be better for me to have at least a chance to win it,” Djokovic said of the French Open, according to ESPN.

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