In a coincidental quirk of fate, three tennis champions suffered a break in their celebrated winning streaks at nearly the same time on Friday. The first was men’s world no.1 Novak Djokovic, who ended his run of 17 consecutive finals at Dubai Duty-Free Tournament, after he retired during his quarterfinal against Spain’s Feliciano Lopez. A few hours later at nearby Doha, women’s doubles champions India’s Sania Mirza and Switzerland’s Martina Hingis also ended their 41-match winning streak by losing in the quarterfinals against Russians Elena Vesnina and Daria Kasatkina in the Qatar Total Open. While Djokovic was forced to quit after his vision was severely impaired in the match against Lopez, women’s doubles team of Sania/Hingis, now collectively referred as Santina, lost after winning the first set.
After playing 350 matches since his crucial Davis Cup semifinal match against Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro in September 2011 at Belgrade, where Djokovic had to retire due to a rib and lower back injury, the Serb suffered another forced retirement on Friday at Dubai. In 4½ years since then, Djokovic’s win-lose record stands at 312-38. The Serbian had a left eye infection since he arrived in Dubai and the infection spread to both his eyes over the course of time. Lopez had taken the first set 6-3, when Djokovic called it quits. Incidentally, Lopez is already out of the tournament after losing to Marco Baghdatis of Cyprus in the semifinal on Saturday and it will be Baghdatis and Stan Wawrinka for the Dubai title on Sunday.
In Qatar, the same fate beckoned Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis in a space of a few hours after Djokovic retired at Dubai. The world’s no.1 women’s doubles pair also fell in the quarterfinals against the Russian duo Elena Vesnina/Daria Kasatkina after winning 41 matches on trot since their exit from the Western & Southern Open in August 2015. Sania/Hingis have been dominating the women’s doubles scene with three Grand Slam victories and numerous WTA tour-level titles. In fact, the Indo-Swiss stars found the going tough in Doha’s Qatar Total Open, where they played only two matches. Earlier on Wednesday in the second round against the Chinese pair of Yi-Fan Xu and Saisai Zheng, Santina had survived a scare before scraping through with a 6-4, 4-6, 10-4 victory. In their match against Vesina/Kasatkina, Sania/Hingis took the first set easily at 6-2 but lost the second 4-6 as the Russians stepped up their game. In the ensuing match tiebreak, Sania/Hingis couldn’t lift themselves and lost the match 6-2, 4-6, 10-5.
The Indo-Swiss combo rose to great heights with a dramatic victory at Wimbledon last year and although they lost in the 2015 Western & Southern Open at Cincinnati, they claimed their second Grand Slam together at the US Open. Then they swept the WTA circuit without losing a match. After winning the BNP Paribas WTA Finals at Singapore, Sania/Hingis began the New Year by winning at Brisbane and Sydney before clinching their third Grand Slam; the Australian Open at Melbourne. If the pair had won the title at Doha, they would have equaled the 44-match winning streak of Jana Novotna and Natasha Zvereva. But an amazing run of 109 straight match victories by Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver would still have remained a distant dream. Nothing is lost for the Indo-Swiss pair just yet as almost the full tennis season in 2016 is ahead of them.
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