Djokovic retirement leaves Dubai fans shell-shocked.
Alaric Gomes, Senior Reporter
Dubai: A near-capacity centre court crowd was left jeering and whistling in disappointment and shock as tournament favourite and top seed Novak Djokovic retired during his quarter-final against Feliciano Lopez in the Dubai Duty Free Men's Open late on Thursday.
Coming in as a sure-shot for a fifth title in Dubai, Djokovic called it quits after going down 3-6 in the opening set against the resolute 34-year-old opponent from Spain. Incidentally, this was the first-ever victory for Lopez after eight career meetings against the current world number one.
Djokovic, who became the 12th player in the Open Era to record 700 singles victories following his smooth 6-1, 6-2 triumph against Malek Jaziri of Tunisia on Wednesday, entered the court with a blood-shot right eye that required a medical timeout after the third game.
Knowing nothing about his opponent's situation, Lopez was off to a flier as he broke Djokovic in the very first game and held for 2-0. The 34-year-old left-hander then curled a passing backhand shot to get a second break and take the set 6-3 in a mere 32 minutes.
At the end of the set, Djokovic walked up to Lopez near the net and informed him that he would not be continuing, as the expectant crowd was first stunned into silence - which was then followed by jeering, hooting and whistling.
Djokovic did not come in immediately for the customary post-match meeting with the media.
"Strange. 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 later.
"I didn't know. I had no idea before the match that he was ... he told me he had an infection in the eyes since a few days already. I had no idea and I just went on court just without knowing about his illness. And I felt that he was taking risks a little bit more than normal in some of the points that we played, especially when I made the break. Then he was trying to be more aggressive," he added.
"So that's why I kind of realised that something was going on. But it's just an idea. You don't know really what's happening," Lopez mused.
Earlier, world number four and second seed Stan Wawrinka joined two unseeded players in the semi-finals. Opening the season with his 12th career title on the ATP World Tour in Chennai, the Swiss kept his date for a possible final. However, before that the 30-year-old will have to first get past old foe Nick Kyrios in Friday's semi-final.
The day's first two quarter-finals witnessed the dominance of the underdogs, as unseeded Kyrgios and Marcos Baghdatis knocked off two of the six seeds who had advanced to the last eight stages.
Winner of his first-ever ATP World Tour title in Marseille last Sunday, Australian Kyrgios showed no signs of slowing down with an efficient 6-4, 6-4 win over third seed Tomas Berdych, while Baghdatis quelled the challenge of fourth seed Roberto Bautista Agut 7-5, 6-0.
Wawrinka said: "It was a very good match where I was always trying to play my game and get him to commit the errors.
"Going into the match it was always going to be close, and I decided to stay aggressive from the start while expecting him to make the mistakes."
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