Novak Djokovic might be rethinking his ATP Tour schedule after a second consecutive year of early exits at the ATP Masters 1000 events in March.
Djokovic has long dominated the “Sunshine Double”, winning it four times and as recently as 2016 (2011, 2014-16). Those eight titles alone count for a fourth of Djokovic’s total Masters 1000 title haul (32).
But for the past two years, the Serbian hasn’t made a quarter-final at either Masters 1000 event, theMiami Open presented by Itauand the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.
His latest setback came on Tuesday when he fell to Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut for the second time this season 1-6, 7-5, 6-3 in the Miami fourth round.
“It’s not the first time I lose early in both tournaments. I have done that the last couple of years. So definitely have to rethink how I prepare for Indian Wells/Miami next year,” said Djokovic, who came to Indian Wells not having played since the Australian Open in January.
“I just had way too many things off the court. I guess that affected me a little bit on the court. I didn’t feel my best health-wise, as well, in Indian Wells and here. Still rusty, but, hey, look, you learn that’s life.”
Djokovic converted only four of his 13 break points, and had a break point to go up 6-5 in the second set and serve for the match.
“He’s a solid player. Congratulations to him definitely for a great comeback. But this kind of match I should not have lost. So many opportunities. Just way too many wasted opportunities. This is what happens when you don’t capitalise on time,” Djokovic said.
Despite the disappointment, however, he should leave South Florida feeling much better about his game than he did a year ago. Last year, Djokovic lost his opening-round match at Indian Wells (Taro Daniel) and Miami (Benoit Paire).
Yet he had one of the best second halves to a season in ATP Tour history. From No. 22 in the ATP Rankings, Djokovic finished year-end No. 1 for the fifth time (2011-12, 2014-15). His 21-spot rise is the most any player has climbed to finish year-end No. 1.
Djokovic will now turn his focus to the European clay-court swing, where he will battle Rafael Nadal for the all-time Masters 1000 titles record (33). Djokovic also will try to hold all four Grand Slams for the second time in his career at Roland Garros.
“I grew up on clay, so I like playing on clay,” he said. “We’ll see. I definitely have to play better than I have these couple of tournaments.”