“I’m sorry for holding this press conference,” said Federer, who has been enjoying a 20-match unbeaten run.
“I hurt my back in my second round match (against Zemlja) and I don’t see any improvement today.
“I’ve played through two matches in pain and don’t think it’s the right thing to risk anything more now. It’s the only right decision to make.
“I’ve just been trying to manage the situation really. Back spasms happen and sometimes you can contain them with massage and pain killers. But I don’t want to drive myself crazy with more painkillers, and I need to do what’s right to get it better.”
“It’s only the second time I have pulled out from a tournament, and I have never pulled out during a match. It’s a sad moment for me, the tournament, and the fans, but health comes first.”
Federer said he feels “optimistic” that he will be fit for the Australian Open, where he hopes to win back the title he lost to Novak Djokovic last year.
“Although it’s not very good it’s not crazy bad,” he said.
“I have had bad backs on the past, but this is not very good, otherwise I would definitely be playing.
“I feel that without play and with the right treatment, I will get through it in the next few days. That’s my personal opinion right now.
“But then of course I have along journey in front of me going to Australia, but I hope maybe midweek next week I should be a hundred percent again. But that’s just guessing.”
Good decision I thought. Roger won three competitive matches now and I feel that is enough to be ready for Melbourne. The presser above reveals a lot. It’s obvious that Roger wanted to play, but as always health comes first for him. No one can ever doubt his motivation to play because this is only the second time in his long career that he has withdrawn before a match, and he has never withdrawn during a match. I mean that is just unheard of. At 30 years of age it is almost expected that he would withdraw at some point. I know for us as fans it is not nice. Believe me I was disappointed when I heard Roger withdrew, but we just have to try to think ahead. Isn’t it better that he withdraws now than withdrawing during the Australian open? Of course it is. We just have to accept it no matter how difficult.
The good thing is that this is not a career ender. It is a muscle problem and therefore can be treated quite easily. In the next few days Roger will spend a lot of time on the massage table, do stretching, and have some rest. Roger have had this problem in the past and it’s not nice to see it rear its ugly head again, but I like to be optimistic. The positive thing is that Roger has his priorities right. He could have played today with painkillers and possibly won the tournament, but then he would have put his body at risk before the first slam of the year. Clearly it’s not worth it. He can rather take painkillers during the Australian Open if it’s necessary. Lets say he starts feeling his back at semis time. Then he can always take some pain killers because it is a big event and he will have enough time to rest afterwards anyway.
This doesn’t look like an injury that can really mess him up in the long term. It may be recurring but as I said it doesn’t look like a career ender. I think it is more a question of strengthening certain muscles to ensure that it doesn’t recur. I used to have a chronic lower back problem when I was playing. It was quite painful and debilitating but it was only really a problem after a break when I was not fit. What I am trying to say is that it can be treated. It is usually because of the weakness of certain muscles. So maybe it will take some time to fully sort this problem out, but I don’t really see it as career threatening. Roger seems positive but at the same time uncertain about how his back will react during the Australian Open. My outlook is that he took the right decision now and if his back bothers him in the latter parts of the Australian Open he can always opt for the pain killers.
Today Monfils beat Nadal 6-3, 6-4. He also beat Nadal in the Doha semis in 2009. To me Nadal still looks vulnerable. Many people would say this result has no bearing on Nadal’s chances in Melbourne, but Nadal has looked vulnerable for a while now and I’d be shocked if he wins the Australian Open. I actually think this will be a very tough year for him. But I have never been good with predictions about Nadal so I will just leave it at that.