Novak Djokovic wears cycle helmet to sign autographs after water bottle incident

Novak Djokovic wearing a bike helmet
Djokovic was taking no chances after being struck on the head on Friday - Sky Sports

Novak Djokovic showed off his humorous side on Saturday as he returned to the Foro Italico and signed autographs while wearing a bicycle helmet over his trademark tennis cap.

The gesture was a reference to the unfortunate incident from Friday evening, in which a metal water bottle fell from the rucksack of an autograph-hunter and landed on Djokovic’s head.

Djokovic underwent medical checks on site after the unexpected blow, which took him completely by surprise and left him in a foetal position on the ground for about 30 seconds.

He must have feared for his safety for an instant, but videos showed that the bottle had fallen by accident as the fan leaned over the railing without closing the top of his bag.

Djokovic is not scheduled to play his second-round match against Alejandro Tabilo until Sunday, but he was back on site again on Saturday for practice. He told reporters that he feels fine, and wore a broad grin as he performed his usual autograph-signings underneath that bicycle helmet.

Meanwhile, Rafael Nadal said that he is still weighing up whether to play at Roland Garros after suffering a comprehensive 6-1, 6-3 defeat at the hands of Polish No1 Hubert Hurkacz.

Hurkacz is not a man you want to play in the twilight of your career. He is also known for having handed Roger Federer a 6-0 “bagel” at Wimbledon in what proved to be Federer’s final professional match.

Rafael Nadal shaking hands
Nadal suggested that he still intends to play one last French Open - Shutterstock/FABIO FRUSTACI

Nadal received a passionate farewell from the Italian fans, who gathered under the overhead bridge leading away from Rome’s Campo Centrale and chanted his name. By the time he reached the interview room, however, he sounded thoroughly deflated by his heaviest defeat on clay in 21 years.

“Tough day for me in all ways because I felt more ready than what I showed,” Nadal said. “I am little bit more unpredictable today, not playing enough for the last two years. Too many doubts.”

Nadal went on to explain that, with a fortnight still to go before the French Open, he needs to decide between two options.

“One is to say, ‘Okay, I am not ready, I am not playing enough well,’” Nadal said. “Another is accept how I am today and work the proper way to try to be in a different way in two weeks.

“The decision, as you can imagine, is not clear in my mind today. But if I have to say what’s my feeling and if my mind is closer one way or the other way, I going to say be in Roland Garros and try my best. Physically I have some issues, but not probably yet enough to say not playing in the most important event of my tennis career.”

The statistics suggest that Nadal has at least gained some confidence in the health of his troublesome abdominal muscle, which had limited his serve speed in recent weeks. At his first-clay court tournament in Barcelona three weeks ago, he averaged just 102mph on first serve, but that rose to around 113mph in Madrid and now 121mph in Rome.

Unfortunately for Nadal, however, there is more to this game than pace. A lack of accuracy on that first serve meant that it usually landed in the middle of the box, and he was broken four times in eight games. Over the next two weeks, one of Nadal’s priorities will surely be to combine pace and positioning in the same shot.