SYMPATHY from fellow players was in short supply for Novak Djokovic yesterday after the Serbian abruptly surrendered his Australian Open title when wilting in the Melbourne heat.
Djokovic threw in the towel midway through the fourth set of his quarter-final with Andy Roddick, who will face Roger Federer in the last four. "He's not a guy who's never given up before; it's disappointing," said Federer. "I've only done it once in my career. Andy Roddick totally deserved to win that match."
The on-court temperature at the Rod Laver Arena had soared above 40 degrees Celsius, but Djokovic won little support in a sport where players have often gone through the pain barrier in their quest for success.
Djokovic has struggled to win fans among his peers and his habit of calling for a trainer on court has often irked his opponents.
Yesterday, he became the first men's champion to quit while defending his title since Pat Rafter at the 1999 US Open.
"I did have some retirements but I always retired with a reason. I don't see why anybody should (criticise me]," said Djokovic, the first and only Serbian man to win a grand slam title, in Melbourne last year. "Whenever I retired, I retired because I felt I cannot go on."
Despite his explanation, Federer remained unsympathetic. "I'm almost in favour of saying, you know what, if you're not fit enough, just get out of here," said the Swiss. "If Novak were up two sets to love, I don't think he would have retired 4-0 down in the fourth."
Federer and Roddick have both called for a review of the rule allowing players to take medical time-outs for cramp to prevent it being abused.
Djokovic was complaining of cramp and "general soreness" during his match yesterday and asked a trainer to massage his legs, neck and shoulders. He returned to the court, but gave up shortly after while trailing 6-7, 6-4, 6-2, 2-1.
Roddick said he was satisfied that Djokovic was genuinely injured and had acted within the rules, but said he still did not like the rule, which allows up to ten minutes for a break.
Federer, who serves as the president of the ATP Players Council, is also concerned about the rule. "I really felt when I was coming up, the young players abused it, especially against a player like me. It's a tough call. I guess we'll speak about it and see what happens."
Federer sent out an ominous warning to Roddick when he produced a tennis masterclass to demolish Argentine Juan Martin del Potro 6-3, 6-0, 6-0.
Two days after Federer was surprisingly taken to five sets by Tomas Berdych, the 13-times grand-slam winner wasted little time by thrashing the eighth seed in 80 minutes. Such was Federer's dominance that Del Potro won just eight points in the second set and six in the third as the 27-year-old Swiss advanced to his 19th successive grand slam semi-final.
MEN'S SINGLES QUARTER-FINALS:
(7) Andy Roddick (USA) bt (3) Novak Djokovic (Ser) 6-7 (3-7) 6-4 6-2 2-1 ret, (2) Roger Federer (Swi) bt (8) Juan Martin Del Potro (Arg) 6-3 6-0 6-0.
WOMEN'S SINGLES QUARTER-FINALS:
(7) Vera Zvonareva (Rus) bt (16) Marion Bartoli (Fra) 6-3 6-0, (3) Dinara Safina (Rus) bt Jelena Dokic (Aus) 6-4 4-6 6-4
MEN'S DOUBLES QUARTER-FINALS:
Lukasz Kubot (Pol) & Oliver Marach (Aut) bt (6) Mariusz Fyrstenberg (Pol) & Marcin Matkowski (Pol) 6-2 6-2, (3) Mahesh Bhupathi (Ind) & Mark Knowles (Bah) bt Feliciano Lopez (Spa) & Fernando Verdasco (Spa) 6-1 2-6 6-4
WOMEN'S DOUBLES QUARTER-FINALS:
(9) Daniela Hantuchova (Svk) & Ai Sugiyama (Jpn) bt (1) Cara Black (Zim) & Liezel Huber (USA) 6-7 (0-7) 6-3 7-6 (12-10), Nathalie Dechy (Fra) & Mara Santangelo (Ita) bt (11) Nuria Llagostera Vives (Spa) & Maria Jose Sanchez Martinez (Spa) 3-6 7-6 (9-7) 7-6 (8-6), (12) Casey Dellacqua (Aus) & Francesca Schiavone (Ita) bt Anna-Lena Groenefeld (Ger) & Patty Schnyder (Swi) 0-6 7-5 6-1, (10) Serena Williams (USA) & Venus Williams (USA) bt (16) Su-Wei Hsieh (Tpe) & Shuai Peng (Chn) 6-2 4-6 6-3
MIXED DOUBLES SECOND ROUND:
Patty Schnyder (Swi) & Wesley Moodie (Rsa) bt (1) Cara Black (Zim) & Leander Paes (Ind) 6-1 7-5, (7) Anabel Medina Garrigues (Spa) & Tommy Robredo (Spa) bt Chia-Jung Chuang (Tpe) & Christopher Kas (Ger) 4-6 6-1 10-8, Nathalie Dechy (Fra) & Andy Ram (Isr) bt (4) Liezel Huber (USA) & Jamie Murray (Gbr) 6-7 (6-8) 6-2 10-4, Iveta Benesova (Cze) & Lukas Dlouhy (Cze) bt Mara Santangelo (Ita) & Simon Aspelin (Swe) 3-6 6-2 12-10.
GIRL'S SINGLES SECOND ROUND:
(5) Laura Robson (GB) bt Kanyapat Narattana (Tha) 6-3 7-6 (7-0), (9) Heather Watson (GB) bt Chanel Simmonds (Rsa) 6-2 6-1.