Djokovic pulls out mid-match in Dubai with eye infection
An eye infection forced Novak Djokovic to quit after losing the opening set 6-3 in the quarter-finals of the Dubai Tennis Championships to Spain's Feliciano Lopez on Thursday.
The world number one Serb, winner of Doha and the Australian Open in January, now stands 14-1 on the season after going down 6-3.
His departure ends a streak of finals appearances in the last 17 tournaments dating to January a year ago.
Djokovic looked unfit and ill from the start of the match. At one point in the 32-minute set he was offered eye drops by a doctor during a changeover but changed his mind and refused.
"The eye problem will fade away in a few days," Djokovic said. "I've got a lot of important events waiting starting with Davis Cup at home followed by Indian Wells, Miami and the clay season.
"Physically I feel fine. But it wasn't to be. I'm really sad to end the tournament this way. But I was forced to."
Lopez, the experienced sixth seed, secured his first win in eight career matches with Djokovic who was bidding for a fifth title in Dubai.
The poor state of the Serb was demonstrated by 18 unforced errors, with the top seed sending a forehand well long to lose.
"It's very sad when you play against one of the best players in the history of the sport and he has to retire the way he did," Lopez said. "I had no idea before the match, he told me he had an infection in the eyes since a few days already.
"I came on court without knowing about his illness. He was taking risks a little bit more than normal in some of the points that we played.
"He was not taking care of his shots sometimes, he was very aggressive where he normally isn't. That's why I realized that something was going on. But it's just an idea. You don't know really what's happening."
Djokovic last quit during a match in a 2011 Davis Cup semi-final against Juan Del Potro of Argentina.
Lopez will Saturday face unseeded Marcos Baghdatis, who last played a Dubai semi-final in 2010.
The Cypriot upset Spanish fourth seed Roberto Bautista Agut 7-5, 6-0 with a 67-minute first set followed by a quick-fire second.
Baghdatis changed his luck as he overcame four double-faults in the eighth game of the first set.
"I think I stayed strong, didn't give any points away, you know. I was a bit lucky there but sometimes you need luck to go through, and I had it today.
"I'm very happy with the victory."
Australian Nick Kyrgios successfully dealt with a tight back and an upset stomach to reach the semi-finals with an upset of third seed Tomas Berdych 6-4, 6-4.
Kyrgios will next play Stan Wawrinka after the French Open champion beat German Philipp Kohlschreiber 7-5, 6-1.
Kyrgios has promised no drama as he meets Wawrinka for the first time since a bad-tempered exchange in Montreal in August, with the Aussie casting a sexual slur concerning Wawrinka's girlfriend Donna Vekic, a WTA player.
"Since the incident. I think we've both moved on from it," Kyrgios said. "We played on the same team in IPTL.
"That was actually really good. I got to know him a little bit more. He played great there. He's one of the best players in the world, no doubt. He's playing great tennis."
Wawrinka had similar thoughts: "He's a tennis player, I'm a tennis player. We are not friends, for sure. We don't go dinner together. But there is nothing else.
"We see each other on the tour every week almost. That's it.
"For me now to play him it's a good challenge. He's playing his best tennis. He won last week. He's full of confidence. It's going to be really tough."
The 33rd-ranked Kyrgios, winner of his first ATP title at the weekend in Marseille called for the trainer after the fifth game of the opening set against Berdych.
"I wasn't in the greatest shape, obviously. I think I got a bit of food poisoning last night," he said.
"I was really surprised with the performance I gave out there today, coming out and beating a quality player and in tough conditions. It's probably my favourite win over the last couple of weeks."