Kei Nishikori has been forced to withdraw from his Australian Open quarter-final, handing world No.1 Novak Djokovic the simplest of passages into the last four at Melbourne Park.
Djokovic will face unlikely French semi-finalist Lucas Pouille for the chance to return to the final for the first time since 2016.
And he’ll be well rested after a 52-minute hit-out on Rod Laver Arena that barely represented a tennis match, let alone a grand slam quarter final.
The Japanese ace was troubled by a thigh injury from early in their clash.
After losing the first set 6-1, Nishikori took a lengthy medical timeout and had his leg strapped as he tried to continue.
Hopes were raised when he held serve to begin the second set, but it quickly became clear this was not a contest.
Djokovic rattled off the next 12 points with ease, as Nishikori opted not to even run for many of his groundstrokes.
With the score reading 6-1 4-1, Nishikori offered his apologies to both the Serb and the capacity crowd as he retired.
“I like to battle especially against Kei,” Djokovic said.
“I hope he can recover (and) it is not something that is too serious.”
While Djokovic offered his well-wishes, the ruthless competitor in him quickly resurfaced. The six-times Australian Open champion had his own battle with fatigue in his fourth round win over Daniil Medvedev.
“As they say, this is exactly what the doctor ordered for me after the match two nights ago. Not to spend too much time on the court,” he said.
“I’ve had plenty of matches so far this year and I am in another semi-final and I will do everything to get ready for that one.”
Nishikori is no stranger to injuries or retirements, having battled a string of complaints, most notably a severe wrist injury, through his career.
Coming into their quarter-final, he had already spent four and a half hours longer on court at Melbourne Park than Djokovic, completing nine tiebreaks to just one.
It is the 29-year-old’s first loss of the season after he claimed the Brisbane International.