Why Has a Raft of Top Stars, Including Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, Pulled Out of Miami Open 2021?

Published 03/22/2021, 12:29 AM EDT
Tennis – ATP 250 – Qatar Open – The Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex, Doha, Qatar – March 10, 2021 Switzerland’s Roger Federer wearing a mask as he walks out before his first round match against Great Britain’s Dan Evans Tennis Federation/Samer Al-Rejjal/Handout via REUTERS


This year, the prestigious Miami Open will mark a unique first. And one that tournament director and former American tennis star James Blake would dearly wish it hadn’t!

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For, arguably, the first time since they came to topline the men’s draw at this calendar ATP event, none of the Big Three  – combined moniker for Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic – will play the Miami Open this year.

Miami Open the first ATP Masters 1000 event that Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic will miss 2004 Paris Masters

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What’s more, it’s the first ATP Masters 1000 event that the Big Three will have missed since the 2004 Rolex Paris Masters.

Even as the pullouts have left tournament organizers, fans and the tennis world in gloom, there are bigger issues and questions that need addressing.

While Nadal and Djokovic tweeted their withdrawals on the official handles, Federer’s agent confirmed that he won’t be travelling to the Magic City either.

The Spaniard, who is currently on pole alongside Federer for the most number of Grand Slam titles in the men’s game, pulled out citing his sore back and “need to fully recover and get ready for the clay court season”.

Djokovic, who suffered an abdominal muscle tear on his way to clinching a record ninth Australian Open title this year, was characteristically more forthright on why he was missing this time.

Punishing bubble, reduced prize money may have forced Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic to pull out of Miami

While not directly blaming it on the tournament bubble, the Serb tweeted that with all the “restrictions” in place during the Covid times, he needs to balance his time on “Tour” and at “home”.

While they didn’t say as much, there are many who believe that the thought of putting themselves through another bubble, which is starting to become a big talking point in the circuit, may not have been too appealing to them.

Add to that the significant cut in the tournament prize money this year and you will perhaps get an even better idea on what forced the Big Three’s hand when it came to travelling to Miami.

As it turns out, Federer, Nadal and Djokovic aren’t the only top names missing in the Miami draw this time.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – JANUARY 10: Rafael Nadal of Spain (L) and Novak Djokovic of Serbia hits a forehand react after watching a video replay while on the sidelines during the Tie Break Tens ahead of the 2018 Australian Open at Margaret Court Arena on January 10, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

A staggering 31 of the Top-100 men’s players, including the likes of Dominic Thiem, Stan Wawrinka and Gael Monfils, have pulled out citing one reason or the other.

As some would say, it takes top dollar to attract top talents and when those dollars are seemingly hard to come by, for reasons of Covid or otherwise, the game’s biggest stars may not deem it worth their while, be it Miami or anywhere for that matter.

At the risk of stating the obvious, the big-name pullouts from prestigious events don’t reflect well on the game’s governing body and the minders at ATP need to put their thinking caps on and come up with a solution that safeguards all stakeholders – most of all, the players.

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DIVE DEEPER

“There Is a Problem”: Benoit Paire Cites Absence of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic from Miami Open to Raise Tour Concerns

about 2 months ago

Perhaps reducing the number of Tour events as opposed to halving the prize money at marquee events would be just what the doctor ordered.

But is the ATP listening?

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Priyabrata Chowdhury

858 articles

Priyabrata Chowdhury is a tennis author for EssentiallySports. He has been a print journalist for a decade, producing news pages for leading national dailies such as the Hindustan Times and The New Indian Express. His passion for sports eventually drove him to tennis writing.

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