Top-ranked Novak Djokovic retired during his quarter-final in the Dubai Tennis Championships with an infection in both eyes on Thursday, ending his global run of 17 consecutive final appearances.
“It’s an eye problem,” Djokovic, wearing dark sunglasses, said at his post-match news conference.
“I have had it ever since I arrived to Dubai. Started with an infection, and then severe allergy.”
Djokovic said the infection started in his right eye but then presented in both eyes. He was instructed not to wear his contact lenses except for during matches because it aggravates the condition.
“It’s gotten worse the last two days, unfortunately,” he added.
“It’s the first time that I have had such a problem with the eye. It was ultra sensitive today, the lights, and just wasn’t to be.”
The retirement ended Djokovic’s run of 17 straight finals dating to the 2015 Australian Open.
He had won 13 of those finals, including the last seven since the US Open in September.
He was one final away from tying Ivan Lendl’s Open era record of 18 straight in 1981-82. But he wasn’t worried about his streak ending.
“I just hope this problem with the eye will fade away in the next couple of days,” he said.
“I got a lot of important events waiting for me in the next period. Of course, Davis Cup back home (next week) and Indian Wells, Miami, and of course clay-court season.”
The last time Djokovic retired from a match was against Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina in a Davis Cup semifinal in 2011.
He’s played 350 matches since then for a 312-38 win-loss record.
Playing Feliciano Lopez, Djokovic called for the ATP trainer while trailing 1-2. He kept pointing to his face as he spoke to the trainer but eventually got up to play.
However, he quit the match after the Spaniard closed out the first set 6-3.
Lopez will play unseeded Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus in the semifinals. Baghdatis upset fourth-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain 7-5 6-0.
Second-seeded Stan Wawrinka set up a semifinal with unseeded Nick Kyrgios by beating eighth-seeded Philipp Kohlschreiber 7-5 6-1.
Kyrgios, who is making his Dubai debut, advanced by beating third-seeded Tomas Berdych 6-4 6-4 despite having treatment on his back in the first set.