Novak Djokovic explains unusual Miami Open withdrawal as Serb set for four-week break | Tennis | Sport

Novak Djokovic has given an unusual reason for his withdrawal from the Miami Open. The world No. 1 suffered an early third-round exit from Indian Wells and decided to pull out of the second Masters 1000 of the year. It means that he will spend four weeks away from the match court, entering next month’s Monte Carlo Masters with just 11 matches played this season.

Djokovic has had a disappointing start to 2024 by his standards, failing to lift a title in his first three tournaments of the year. The 24-time Major winner lost to Alex de Minaur at the United Cup and Jannik Sinner at the Australian Open. But his most surprising defeat came earlier this week in Indian Wells.

The top seed crashed out to lucky loser Luca Nardi in the third round. The world No. 123 lost in qualifying but got a spot in the main draw when Tomas Etcheverry. His 6-4 3-6 6-3 triumph over Djokovic was just his sixth match win at ATP Tour level. It was Djokovic’s earliest exit from a tournament since Monte Carlo last April.

The 36-year-old has since withdrawn from the upcoming Miami Open, and he has now explained the uncommon reason why he wouldn’t be playing until the second week of April. “Unfortunately I won’t be playing the @MiamiOpen this year. At this stage of my career, I’m balancing my private and professional schedule,” Djokovic tweeted on Sunday.

“I’m sorry that I won’t experience some of the best and most passionate fans in the world. I’m looking fw competing in MI in future!” It’s rare for a tennis player to admit that they will skip a tournament to put their private life first.

It comes after Djokovic arrived early in California to spend some time with his family ahead of Indian Wells, which included taking them to a basketball game. The world No. 1 has been picky with his scheduling over the last few years, prioritising the Grand Slams, but he appears to be prioritising his family even more as he gets older.

But his limited tennis calendar has had a knock-on effect, as Djokovic confessed that it was even tougher to lose when he was playing less often. After losing to Nardi, the Serb said: “I do play fewer tournaments, so I’m more selective with my schedule. So of course it’s not great feeling when you, you know, drop out very early in the tournament, and especially here, I haven’t played five years. I really wanted to do well. But wasn’t meant to be. We move on.”

The Indian Wells Masters marked Djokovic’s first tournament since the Australian Open in January. It meant that there were more than six weeks between his last match Down Under and his opening round in Indian Wells. And the Serb claimed that he couldn’t count himself as a regular player on the tour as a result.

“I haven’t played five, six weeks, you know. So I can’t really say I’m part of the tour, really, as all the other guys,” he said on Tuesday. Djokovic will now take another lengthy break away from competition after opting to pull out of Miami, as he is next scheduled to play in Monte Carlo.

The first big tournament of the clay swing kicks off on April 7, and Djokovic is set to receive a bye to the second round as one of the top seeds, meaning his next match will likely come four weeks after losing to Nardi.

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