KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. – Rafael Nadal slumped in a changeover chair, the blood pressure gauge strapped to his mighty left arm serving as a scoreboard.
He was on the verge of defeat, and a few points later he retired from a match for the first time in six years.
Nadal faded in the subtropical heat and conceded after falling behind in the third set of his opening match Saturday at the Miami Open against Damir Dzumhur.
The No. 5-seeded Nadal trailed 2-6, 6-4, 3-0 when he called it quits after losing a point to fall behind 30-15. He had earlier consulted with a trainer between games three times, and had his blood pressure checked.
Nadal said he started feeling badly at the end of the first set.
“It was getting worse and worse and worse,” the Spaniard said. “I get a little bit scared — too dizzy. I felt I was not safe, so I decided to go. I wanted to finish the match, but I seriously couldn’t.”
His departure left the draw without three of the five highest-seeded men. No. 4 Stan Wawrinka lost to Andrey Kuznetsov 6-4, 6-3, and No. 3 Roger Federer withdrew Friday because of a stomach virus.
Nadal’s match lasted less than two hours, but the weather was sunny and humid, with a temperature approaching 90 degrees and even higher on the stadium hardcourt.
Nadal said he felt fine before the match and wasn’t sure whether he was contracting an illness.
“Hopefully, it’s just the extreme conditions,” he said. “It’s tough for me, because I felt I was playing well. It’s a hard accident. That’s life.”
The 14-time Grand Slam champion hasn’t won a tournament since August. But it had been 443 matches since he retired — in the 2010 Australian Open quarterfinals against Andy Murray.
Key Biscayne remains one of the biggest tournaments Nadal has never won. He’s 0-4 in finals.
Dzumhur, a 23-year-old Bosnian ranked 94th, rallied with a variety of tactics, including half a dozen drop shots for winners and an occasional serve and volley. Nadal had to work hard from the start, failing to convert nine break-point chances during a marathon second game before Dzumhur double-faulted to lose serve.
The heat also appeared to bother the 154-pound Dzumhur, who consulted with a trainer following the first set.
Nadal finished 3 for 13 converting break points. Dzumhur was 4 for 4.
In other men’s play, No. 6 Kei Nishikori defeated qualifier Pierre-Hughes Herbert 6-2, 7-6 (4). No. 12 Milos Raonic, the runner-up at Indian Wells this month, beat Denis Kudla 7-6 (4), 6-4.
On the women’s side, No. 8 Petra Kvitova lost to No. 30 Ekaterina Makarova 6-4, 6-4. No. 3 Agnieszka Radwanska, the 2012 champion, eliminated Madison Brengle 6-3, 6-2.