World No. 1 Novak Djokovic announced Friday that he would forgo playing in the ATP tournament in Miami to stay with his family, a blow to the Masters 1000 that also laments the absences of Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Dominic Thiem.

"Dear fans, I am very sorry to announce that this year I will not be coming to Miami to play the tournament. I have decided to spend this precious time at home to be with my family. With all these restrictions, I need to find a balance between my time on court and at home," the Serb explained in a message posted on his Twitter account.

The absence of the best player on the circuit, winner of the last Australian Open, his 18th Grand Slam, comes on top of those of Rafael Nadal (world No.3), defending champion Roger Federer (No.6) and Dominic Thiem (No.4).

Nadal, 34, justified his withdrawal by saying he "needed to recover fully and prepare for the clay court season in Europe". He was eliminated in the quarter-finals by Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Federer, 39, made his comeback last week in Doha after 13 months out of action due to two knee operations, and felt he still needed to train before he too could start the clay court season.

- Strong women's draw -

Thiem, who has had a difficult start to the season, was eliminated in the last eight of the Australian Open by Bulgaria's Grigor Dimitrov. The Austrian recently said he needed a "little boost" ahead of the French Open, where he has set his sights on dethroning Nadal

The Miami Open, the first Masters 1000 event of the season, which runs from 24 March to 4 April, has seen its men's draw severely impacted by a string of withdrawals. So much so that the favourites are now Daniil Medvedev (world No.2), finalist in Melbourne, Stefanos Tsitsipas, German Alexander Zverev and Russian Andrey Rublev, who represent the next generation of world tennis.

The women's tournament, on the other hand, has all its stars, including Japanese Naomi Osaka (world No. 2), Australian Open winner Ashleigh Barty (No. 1), Romanian Simona Halep (No. 3) and of course Serena Williams (No. 7), an eight-time winner in Florida.

In recent years, the Miami tournament has lost some of its glory compared to Indian Wells, which is scheduled just before it and is considered the fifth Grand Slam. The postponement of the Californian tournament to an undetermined date seems to have clearly reduced the interest for players to travel to the United States to play only the less prestigious of these two important spring events.