No time for Novak Djokovic

Djokovic’s streak of 17 consecutive ATP Tour finals, one short of matching Ivan Lendl’s Open era record, ended because an allergy and eye infection forced him to withdraw after he lost the first set.

The finals streak is gone, but this week Djokovic also became just the 12th man to record at least 700 ATP Tour match wins in the Open era — which is not a bad consolation prize.

Djokovic needs just one more Masters 1000 title to match Rafael Nadal, the all-time leader with 27.

Djokovic was 13-4 in those finals, his most painful loss undoubtedly the four-set French Open failure against Stan Wawrinka last year.

While that upset helped establish Federer as Djokovic’s most dangerous rival for the last year, Federer’s proficiency would not prove adequate in best-of-five Grand Slam meetings.

Djokovic would go on to master Federer at Wimbledon and the US Open, and he handled the Swiss with ease in the World Tour Finals as well.

Only three players outside the Big Four (Djokovic, Federer, Andy Murray and Nadal) made it to a final opposite Djokovic during the streak (Wawrinka, Tomas Berdych and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga).

Top-seeded Novak Djokovic retired from his quarterfinal match against Feliciano Lopez at the Dubai Tennis Championships on Thursday after losing the first set.

The timing is awkward, with a World Group first-round Davis Cup tie that Djokovic is committed to play against Kazakhstan approaching in the first week in March, followed by the two big U.S.

Djokovic’s ambitions suffered a temporary setback in Dubai, but he still hasn’t been beaten fair and square by an ATP rival since Federer tagged him in a round-robin match at the ATP World Tour Finals last November.