DUBAI • Novak Djokovic insisted that he would have needed a "third eye" to keep playing in Dubai, after an infection in his right eye spread to his left, causing him to quit the tennis tournament.
The world No. 1 was 3-6 down to Spanish left-hander Feliciano Lopez in the quarter-finals on Thursday when he retired, ending his run of 17 consecutive finals.
It was also the top seed's first loss of this year after 14 wins, a run which included a sixth Australian Open title last month.
"If I had a third eye, I'd play the tournament," said the 28-year-old, a four-time Dubai champion. "I'm sorry that I'm talking now with my sunglasses at 10pm. It's not a usual sight, but that's what it is and I am just hoping it's going to get better."
The Serb, who celebrated his 700th career win on Wednesday, last failed to make a final when he was beaten in the Doha Open's quarter-finals in January last year.
On Thursday, the 11-time Grand Slam winner said that the infection in his eyes had become worse in recent days. Playing under the Aviation Club's floodlights in Dubai made his eyes more sensitive.
"I've had it since I arrived in Dubai. It started with an infection and then severe allergy," he said. "It's gotten worse in the last two days, unfortunately. It's the first time that I have had such a problem."
Djokovic now heads back to Europe where he has Davis Cup duty next week, before heading to the United States for back-to-back Masters at Indian Wells and Miami.
Thursday was his first retirement since a 2011 Davis Cup tie.
Yesterday, rising Australian star Nick Kyrgios walked off the court injured in his first match against nemesis Stan Wawrinka since his infamous sex sledge against the Swiss.
Wawrinka had won the first set 6-4 in the semi-final and was leading 3-0 in the second when Kyrgios left the court clutching his back.
The Australian made crude remarks concerning the Swiss star's girlfriend Donna Vekic during their last encounter in Montreal.
ATP DUBAI C'SHIPS
Finals: StarHub Ch201, 11pm