For the first Masters 1000 of the year, in this case Miami and not the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, more than 50 % of the players that made the cut will not play the tournament. What is happening?

This week marks the beginning of the first Masters 1000 event of the year with the Miami Open. Compared to 2020, the progress is amazing, as last year not only was the BNP Paribas Open cancelled, but the south Florida event as well.

However, despite the fact that this year the tournament will take place, a fair amount of players, to say the least, will not be attending. To be precise, as I am writing these few lines, 39 main draw players have pulled out. that figure is simply HUGE !

A poor man’s 1000

The Miami Masters 1000 is a draw of 96. From those 96, one needs to remove 12 qualifiers and 5 wild cards, which leaves 79 players that that make the cut. I’m no born scientist but 39 out of 79 is more than 50 % of the players pulling out of the event before it even started. Yes some of them are injured such as Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or Matteo Berrettini, but nothing proves that they would have made the trip in any case. Anyhow the cut (the minimum ranking that allows one to make it into the main draw) went from 77th (6 weeks ago when the list came out) to  … 123rd in the world with Denis Kudla. In other words a poor man’s 1000.

Of course some people will be happy with this situation. They will say : « that with the stars not around, we will be able to discover new faces ». This is true. However, the Maimi Masters 1000 is an elite sporting event, and the best need to be present or else the value of the product decreases. Imagine a World Cup without the marquee players on the big teams. I’m not sure people’s reactions would be « oh great Messi and Ronaldo are not around we are going to be able to enjoy watching Ocampos and Renato Sanchez instead! ». Not.

Make no mistake, I’m not saying that the Miami Masters 1000 is a challenger with solid prize money. Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev, Andrey Rublev and Diego Schwartzam, amongst others will be present. But if one takes a closer look at the top 10 you quickly notice that Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer will not be attending.It is in fact the first time since 2004 that no member of the « Big 3 » is present in a Masters 1000 event.

The globe-trotter model is no longer compatible with the world we live in.

So how does one explain such a low level of attendance ? Easy. The players do not want to have to go through a 7 day quarantine upon returning to Europe. Especially for only 1 week in the US. The travel is huge, the protocol extremely demanding and the prize money downsized. So many arguments that play in favor of the non-attendees. Clearly, the calendar as it exists today no longer makes sense. The globe-trotter mode is no longer compatible with the world we live in. Travel needs to be reduced.

What could have been done? Why not have rescheduled the Miami Masters 1000 for later in the year, pairing it with the BNP Paribas Open and instead organizing a 1000 event that would end the south American swing as well as another one on the other side of the globe sealing the indoor European and middle-eastern swing.

Of course it is easier said than done, but trying to keep things as is isn’t helping. It reminds me of the 2020 Roland-Garros. The entire world of tennis, as one, was judging and talking trash about the French Tennis Federation that took a unilateral decision to postpone the Parisian Grand Slam to the fall. Looking back, it seems as though this was one of the better decisions made.

Might be a good idea to get inspired.