November 16, 2014
Roger Federer withdrew from the ATP World Tour Final with a back injury, leaving Novak Djokovic as undisputed champion. But Federer later made it clear that he intends to play for Switzerland in the Davis Cup final against France next weekend.
Andy Murray stepped in as a replacement for a tame exhibition match at the O2, having reportedly been told as early as 2pm that there might be a problem with Federer’s fitness. ‘I have to apologise,’ joked Murray, who lost 6-0, 6-1 to Federer during the week. . ‘I clearly pushed Roger so hard on Thursday…’
Djokovic, on the other hand, didn’t seem to know what was happening until much later on Sunday afternoon. ‘I did my warm-up and then during the (preceding) doubles match I heard Roger had back troubles and wasn’t able to play.’
Federer came out into the arena to explain his withdrawal to thousands of disappointed fans. He said: ‘I’m sorry I’m not fit to play. I hope you understand. I wanted to come out personally and explain. I did everything I could. I took painkillers, had rest until the very end, but I just cannot compete at this level with Novak. At my age it would have been a risk.’
A little later, however, he emphasised the fact that he intends to play for Switzerland in the Davis Cup final against France next weekend. Roger added: ‘It’s been a disappointing end to the season. I was feeling great until the yesterday’s tie-breaker (against Stan Wawrinka). I tried to have treatment and medication, but we don’t have a day off and there was not enough time to turn it around. It’ll probably feel better in a few days’ time. Maybe it’s just a back spasm but it’s uncomfortable. I’m feeling positive that it’s going to go away very, very soon.
‘I think the fans must be disappointed but that’s sport. If you’re not a hundred per cent there’s no point because you risk worse. I’m thinking about recovery as quickly as possible and travelling to France at some point and getting ready to play at the Davis Cup final.’
Roger’s decision to give himself the best chance of full fitness to bid for his first Davis Cup crown is perfectly understandable, though his candour might not appease some of the heartbroken fans who had been looking forward to a classic final between the two best players in the world. There is talk of a possible refund for Sunday’s spectators, even though Djokovic and Murray played out a lighthearted exhibition match, won 8-5 by Novak.
Djokovic seemed unhappy that his crowning moment had in a sense been taken away from him. After lifting the trophy, he told the crowd: ‘Clearly this is not the way I wanted to win, I feel sorry for Roger for not being able to come out. I’ve known him for a long time and I’m sure if he could have come out and played he would have done. I feel disappointed for you guys for not seeing a well-anticipated match between the one and two in the world. It’s the first time in history something like this has happened.’