As world No. 1 Novak Djokovic was walking off the court Thursday in Dubai, moments after being forced to retire from his quarterfinal match against Feliciano Lopez due to an eye infection, fans began whistling loudly, the international sound for booing. (We Americans are big on onomatopoeia.) It was an odd reaction to a Djokovic retirement, seeing as how it snapped his almost-unprecedented run of 17-straight tournament finals, came as he is playing at perhaps the most dominant level the sport has ever seen and is, you know, Novak Djokovic, a guy who doesn’t take days off and brings it 100% every time he walks on court.
No matter. He bailed early with what looked like a very legitimate eye problem (the last time his eyes were this bloodshot, it was probably the morning after Serbia won the Davis Cup), so it’s time to boo, apparently. Perhaps cognizant of the absurdity of it all, Djokovic started engaging with fans, looking angry while doing so.
Djokovic’s “let me hear it” motion doesn’t seem to be in good spirits. It’s more of a “are you really booing me — bring it on then, morons” type of thing, the sort of motion a WWE heel makes when he enters the ring with a folding chair.
It’s always important to remember that when a player is getting booed, the sound of the boos or whistles greatly drown out the sound of applause, particularly the type of tepid applause Djokovic would have been receiving for retiring after losing a first set. The camera showed a majority of people were giving Djokovic applause or just watching him leave. The booing seemed to be relegated to a couple of clowns who felt they didn’t get their money’s worth, I suppose.
And while, yeah, it stinks Djokovic couldn’t play the second set, he’s got to do what’s best for him. Anyway, seeing the Djoker at the height of his powers, if only for a set, is something special enough. To boo is absolutely ludicrous.
Djokovic is no stranger to it though, long being the second-favorite player on court, whether against Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal or, famously, Andy Roddick at the U.S. Open. He’s taken it in stride, but this one seemed to cross the line.
With his retirement, Djokovic snaps his streak of 17 finals in a row, dating all the way back to last January when he was ousted in the quarterfinals of his 2015 debut in Doha. Djokovic went 13-4 in those finals, including a 4-1 record in his five-straight Slam finals during that stretch. He was also on a 17-match winning streak, including a 14-0 start this year.
Djokovic was also looking to tie the ATP record of 18-straight finals, set by Ivan Lendl.
Boo this man.