Thu, Nov 20, 2014 - Page 19 News List

Federer bids to beat bad back before Davis Cup

AFP, PARIS

Switzerland Davis Cup Team member Roger Federer, left, captain Severin Luethi, center, and Stanislas Wawrinka attend a press conference in Lille, France, on Tuesday.

Photo: EPA

Roger Federer on Tuesday said he still hopes to be able to defend Swiss colors in the Davis Cup final against hosts France in Lille this weekend, despite a crippling back injury.

He added that he and teammate Stanislas Wawrinka are back on the best of terms after an ugly bust-up.

It has been a troubled buildup to say the least, for the Swiss pair as they seek a first-ever Davis Cup triumph for their country against a powerful French team on a specially laid indoor clay court inside the Stade Pierre-Mauroy — home to Ligue 1 side LOSC Lille Metropole — and expected to host a record 27,000-strong crowd.

All had been going well until the two Swiss stars — ranked second and fourth in the world — were pitted against each other in the semi-finals of the ATP World Tour Finals in London on Saturday.

Many thought there would be some kind of an “understanding” between the two given the importance of what faces them in Lille the following week. Instead they embarked on one of the most draining matches of the season — nearly three hours of cut-throat tennis that Federer won 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (8/6) after saving four match points.

There was a price to pay for both players, though, with the Australian Open champion distraught after a heartbreaking loss and Federer ailing with a back spasm that forced him to pull out of the final against Serbia’s Novak Dkokovic the next day.

On top of that, there was a bust-up that followed — Wawrinka taking umbrage at what he saw as inappropriate words from Federer’s wife, Mirka, from the players’ box at a key point in the third set.

Speaking in Lille on Tuesday, both players admitted that there had been an altercation, but both said it had been overplayed by the press and that all was back to normal between the two — Olympic doubles champions in Beijing in 2008.

“We had a conversation after the match. Everything’s totally relaxed about the situation. We’re old enough,” Federer said of the altercation. “I just wanted to see if there was any hard feelings because it was probably one of the loudest moments of the match, around 5-4, 5-5 score. Clearly a lot of noise.”

Wawrinka, who has long lived in the shadow of the man many consider to be the greatest tennis player of all time, agreed.

“For me there’s not much to say because it’s become a big deal because of the press,” he said “But for us it’s nothing really. It took us five minutes to talk about that, to think about the next main goal that we have: the Davis Cup this weekend.”

More worryingly for Switzerland is the state of Federer’s back, an injury which has dogged the 33-year-old champion throughout the latter part of his career.

As of Tuesday evening he had been unable to undertake any practice at all on clay, a surface on which he last played in losing to Ernests Gulbis in the last 16 of the French Open in Paris on June 1.

The 17-time Grand Slam winner was circumspect over whether he would be able to play tomorrow when the two opening rubbers of the final take place.

Asked what the chances of him playing were, he replied: “It’s impossible to give you an answer. As long as you are not on court practicing, you have no references. I’m making some progress, but I know I don’t have a month ahead of me to get better. I need to get better quickly.”

Federer’s withdrawal would be most likely fatal to Switzerland’s hopes of a historic Davis Cup win.

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