First came the loss of No4 seed Stan Wawrinka in his opener against Andrey Kuznetsov, 6-4, 6-3—a disappointment certainly, but perhaps not a huge shock for those familiar with the Swiss player’s Miami record: He had reached the fourth round only twice, and never any further, in Florida.
Meanwhile, Sergiy Stakhovsky, in the same quarter, also retired to Jack Sock in the second set, but the biggest disappointment was yet to come.
No5 seed Rafael Nadal, who arrived in Miami in buoyant mood after a semi-final run in Indian Wells, was forced to retire in the early stages of the third set against the 94th-ranked Damir Dzumhur, 2-6, 6-4, 3-0.
The last time Nadal could not complete a match was at the Australian Open in 2010 in his quarter-final against Andy Murray. He has completed all 443 matches played since.
While there was no immediate comment on the cause, Nadal began to complain of feeling sick and dizzy after failing to hold off Dzumhur in the second set, and twice consulted with medics.
It was certainly clear from his body language that Nadal was far from well as he sank into his chair on a sweltering centre court where both heat and humidity were high. During the second consultation with doctors, he had his blood pressure taken, tried to continue into the fourth game of the deciding set, but had finally to retire.
The good news, for Nadal at least, was that he made it to his press conference, saying he hoped it had just been the extreme conditions that caused his illness.
He went on: “I was fine until the end of second set. Then feeling not good. Feel worse and worse… I felt that I was not safe. I wanted to continue the match but couldn’t.”
Nadal was pursuing his first Miami title after reaching four finals and two further semi-finals in a career that has brought a total of 27 Masters titles but never the one in Florida in 12 years of trying.
The loss of Nadal and Wawrinka leaves the top quarter of the bottom half of the draw wide open, and even more so with the loss of No30 seed Thomaz Bellucci to qualifier Mikhail Kukushkin, 5-7, 6-3, also by retirement.
In the bottom quarter headed by world No2 Andy Murray, the No6 seed Kei Nishikori made it through qualifier Pierre-Hugues Herbert 6-2, 7-6 (4). He next plays No27 seed Alexandr Dolgopolov, who beat Andreas Seppi, 6-4, 6-4.