Disturbing scenes in Miami have highlighted why a number of top tennis stars may have been unwilling to travel to the Miami Open for the first Masters 1000 tournament of the year.
Serena Williams joined Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in withdrawing from the prestigious event on Sunday.
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This year's Miami Open is taking place against a backdrop of declining COVID-19 numbers in the United States, as the vaccine rollouts gather pace.
However authorities in Miami Beach imposed a state of emergency and a curfew on Saturday to deal with rowdy throngs of people partying during spring break.
Thousands of revellers have sparked renewed fears of a possible COVID-19 resurgence in the tourist hotspot, so its little wonder the likes of Williams and Federer don't want to play in Miami.
Video and photos on social media show half-naked women twerking on car rooftops, men offering them wads of bills and a crowd of tourists huddled side-by-side, dancing and passing bottles from hand to hand — plus brawls, gunshots fired in the air and stand-offs with police.
"A lot of times when spring breakers come, whether they're black, white or whatever, there is some sort of anarchy," Retha Boone-Fye, program director for the Black Affairs Advisory Board of Miami-Dade County, told AFP.
Crowd capacity is being strictly limited with most courts having no fans at all, and main courts only hosting a maximum of around 1000 spectators per session.
Tennis stars' withdrawals rock Miami Open
Williams became the latest high-profile player to pull out of the Miami Open on Sunday, saying she was withdrawing in order to concentrate on her recovery from recent oral surgery.
"I am disappointed to withdraw from the Miami Open because of recent oral surgery," Williams said in a statement.
"Miami is a special tournament for me because it's my home and I am sad I won't be able to see the incredible fans this year, but I look forward to coming back soon."
The withdrawals serve as another blow to the tournament which was cancelled last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 39-year-old star is an eight-time winner in Miami and lives in Florida.
"We will certainly miss having Serena at this year's tournament and I know it was a very difficult decision for her," tournament director James Blake told the Miami Herald.
"She has won the Miami Open more than any player in history, has a home here in South Florida, and is always a fan favourite.
"We hope she is back on the court soon and look forward to welcoming her back here next year."
Federer withdrew from Miami on March 2, and was subsequently followed by Nadal and World No.1 Djokovic - who pulled out on Friday citing a desire to spend more time with his family.
"I decided to use this precious time at home to stay with my family," Djokovic said.
"With all restrictions, I need to find balance in my time on tour and at home. I look forward to coming back next year."
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