The rumours are true. Three-time defending champion Novak Djokovic will miss the 2017 Miami Open with a right elbow injury. The world number two has dominated Miami in the past, having won the last three titles in a row, five of the last six, and six overall. The injury means Djokovic will have to wait another year to break his current tie with Andre Agassi for the most titles in the history of the second biggest event in the United States.
Finally too much
Djokovic is off to his worst start since 2010, not winning at least one of the three biggest titles (Australian Open, Indian Wells and Miami) for the first time in seven years. In fact, Djokovic had won back-to-back Australia-Indian Wells-Miami triples going into this year and had won both American Masters 1000 events back-to-back for three straight years.
However, the Serbian has struggled so far in 2017, only reaching two quarterfinals in his first four events, with early losses in the two biggest (second round of the Australian Open, fourth round of Indian Wells), and his lone time advancing past the quarterfinals being at his smallest event, the 250-level tournament in Doha (which he did win, beating world number one Andy Murray in the final). That being said, the Serbian had shown no indication, or at least had not blamed any injuries for his struggles.
At least until today. Djokovic explained in a Facebook post “My doctor has strongly advised against play because my elbow injury, that I keep carrying on for months, got worse in the past week. I will do everything in my power to recover and do all the necessary therapy to be able to return on court as soon as possible.” The Serbian was the three-time defending champion this past week in Indian Wells, but lost in the fourth round to Nick Kyrgios.
As defending champion, Djokovic is surrendering 1000 points from his ranking, allowing Andy Murray to strengthen his hold on the top spot. The only good news for Djokovic is that Murray has also withdrawn with the exact same injury, meaning that the Scot cannot increase his any more that the 955 points he gains from Djokovic’s withdrawal (Murray is losing 45 points by withdrawing).
The timing of the injury is extremely poor for the Serbian beyond simply Miami. After the Miami Open, the tour shifts to Europe for the clay court season, meaning longer, more gruelling matches that can wear on a struggling body.
What’s more is that Djokovic has a ton of points to defend on the clay, with a title in Madrid, a runner-up in Rome, and a title at the French Open all needing to be defending if he wants to stay near the top of the ATP rankings.
Djokovic and Murray’s withdrawals leave a massive hole in the draw, as the pair had combined to win the last six titles, seven of the last eight and eight of the last ten titles at the event. Stan Wawrinka will likely be the top seed at the event. The withdrawals also open the door for Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal to be seeded in the top four, avoiding another early meeting like the pair had in Indian Wells.