Federer, Clijsters Withdraw: What A Drag It Is Getting Old
by Sean Randall | January 6th, 2012, 10:46 am

The are two certainties in a pro tennis career: 1) you will retire; and, 2) you will get injured. Unfortunately, just a week into the New Year and new tennis season we are already seeing a lot of No. 2!

Today, for just the second time in his career Roger Federer had to withdrew before a match because of a back injury he first sustained on Wednesday in a win over Grega Zemlja.

“I don’t feel a whole lot of improvement for today, and I just don’t think it’s the right time to risk anything more right now,” Federer said. “I still have pain, and that’s why it was the only right decision, a difficult one for me.

“It’s a sad moment for me and for the tournament and for the fans, but health goes first, like everybody knows, unfortunately, and I hope I can recover quickly,” he added. “So that’s No. 1 on the agenda right now.”

The other time in 996 career matches that Roger wasn’t able to play a match was in 2008 at Paris against James Blake when he also was suffering from back pain.

Federer said he might stay in Doha Saturday for the 20th anniversery champions celebration before embarking on the long flight to Australia.

Another former No. 1’s attendance in Melbourne is also in question. 2011 winner Kim Clijsters injured her left hip last night in Brisbane. The bubbly Belgian was leading Daniela Hantuchova a set but was down 3-1 in the second when she had to retire from the match.

“I just felt my left hip getting tighter and tighter to the point where I felt like I couldn’t go forward with my upper body or put any pressure on when I was landing on my serve,” Clijsters said.

“So it was the smartest choice to try and not let it get any worse, to be ready for Melbourne in a couple of weeks.”

More troubling is that Federer and Clijsters aren’t the only two Australian Open champions under a sudden injury cloud. Serena Williams turned her ankle on Thursday, Rafael Nadal’s been playing with pain in his right shoulder and Maria Sharapova’s still recovering from an October ankle injury.

When we do see these rash of injuries it’s quick for the tennis community to blame at almost anything: the length of the season, the strings, the racquets, the court surfaces and of course George W. Bush.

But let’s remember. These top players have been on the pro tour a long, long time, putting a lot of tennis miles on their bodies. And Federer and Serena are now 30. Kim is 28. Nadal will be 26 in June and Sharapova, though only 24, is starting her 10th year on the tour!

So injuries are going to happen. That’s pro sports and tennis isn’t immune. And unfortunately, there just isn’t a solution. It’s just part of the aging process people. Just cross your fingers and hope it doesn’t hit your favorite player at the wrong time.

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52 Comments for Federer, Clijsters Withdraw: What A Drag It Is Getting Old

jane Says:

And no “Mother’s little Helper…” ;)

There is a write up on Fed’s back at ESPN. It sounds like he is being precautionary and should he fine at AO.

margot, if you are about, just read this piece on Tomic and Murray. I am excited for their match.


Deborah Says:

So if it’s age, how do you explain that all of the other top players have more withdrawals and w/o with fewer matches played than Fed? I don’t doubt more injuries and body issues come with age, but Fed’s bad back is nothing new. He nearly pulled out of Wimby 2003 with a bad back. I just think with 2 walkovers and no withdrawals in a career over ten years, age is a simplistic explanation.

GOAT Fed Says:

This is the only way I can continue my unbeaten streak.

jane Says:

Monfils won set one. Hard to say if he can actually win. Has he ever beaten Rafa?

Anna Says:

I think the head to head is 8-1 for Rafa. Gael is looking pretty aggressive. If it goes to 3 it should get pretty exciting.

Daniel Says:

Yes Jane, he did. In the same tourney 2 year ago if I am not mistake, 6-4 6-4.

van orten Says:

monfils starting to play to passsive

jane Says:

Thanks for updates on Rafa/Monfils H2H. Rafa just broke at the start of the second.

van orten Says:

nadal playing as always but monfils should know that only aggressive tennis will lead to victory vs nadal

van orten Says:

wow roger went out and faced the crowd …incredibleeeeee …http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fFfNmee2XaI&feature=player_embedded

Izzy Says:

can anyone give me a live stream link that works in asia?

jamie Says:

Federer will not win the AO, according to my friend the psychic.

Jupiter and Uranus are shifting gears and this is impacting his natal Mercury, Sun, Saturn and Jupiter negatively.

jane Says:

Hmmm, Rafa was up a break, gave it back and was broken again. La Monf to serve for it. I wonder if Rafa is less motivated with Fed out?

skeezerweezer Says:

Rafa-over and out. Jane I hope Rafa doesn’t think like that, and if he does he shouldn’t. Fed is his motivator to win? Naahhhhh. Should be Djoker ;)

S Green Says:

After watching Monfils routing Rafa today, I can see how/why the Frenchman troubled Djoko at the Exo last week. Monfils is in explosive form: He had great defense but he showed this week he can outhit top players from both wings, down-the-line forehands and acute-angle backhands.
Congrats to Monfils for reaching the final to play Tsonga. Should be a good match.

marrisv Says:

Wow… Did rafa choke this match away. Hope history repeats itself… – the last time Monfils beat him was here in 2009 and rafa went on to win the AO….

van orten Says:

history repeating itself is over for fed ..unless he would have never stopped winning slams…u cannot be superstitious like that…the last time fed reached semis in doha ( he lost there ) won the AO in 2010

Tennis Vagabond Says:

Saw only the end, but Monfils looked awesome. His game is so unique when he’s aggressive, its very fun to watch. If both he and Tsonga can manage to hold their top forms for any period of time, the battle for the top four could really get interesting.

Cymru08 Says:

Three years ago, I believe, Daniel.

jane Says:

oops I meant that in a subconscious way skeezerweezer, not that he was consciously trying to lose. Just that he might’ve been more fired up inside knowing he’d play his top rival. But that is just a thought. I know Rafa generally is fired up to win regardless.

Congrats to la Monf – all French final. :)

madmax Says:

Van orten, just want to say thanks to you for posting this link – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fFfNmee2XaI&feature=player_embedded

Federer just looked so sorry that he had to withdraw from the match, but to come on and apologise to all his fans I think is such a great thing to do. Is there anyone like Federer on this earth who acts in this way? No. He looked gutted that he wasn’t playing.

After reading what he said in Blick, the back issue is not serious. It’s the right decision for him and after watching the link, it’s great that the boil has gone. Completely.

Kimberly Says:

i’m with marrisv last time Rafa lost to Monfils in Doha he won the Australian Open. That is the history repeating itself I am hoping for! I learned at the US Open 2010 and 2011 not to get too depressed about Rafa warm up tournament losses with deplorable performances in Cincinatti and the Rogers Cup both years, then the USO title and finalist.

Didn’t see the match so can’t comment on what went wrong for Rafa or right for Monfils. Rafa looked pretty good yesterday so hopefully with some nice practice he can arrive in Australia in good shape.

I must say last year I really expected Rafa to win the AO and was stunned when he lost to Ferrer. All reason supported him winning. THIS year, while all reason supports the other three over him, I still have a crazy feeling he will win it! Even though he just thoroughly lost to Monfils! So yes, when you see his name in the winner column of my draw challenge, it is my blind faith!

El Flaco Says:

That was one of the few intelligent matches I have seen Monfils play against Nadal. He usually tries to beat Nadal by counter punching which is almost impossible to do. Even if you start off winning you will tire especially in a best of 5 match. He really mixed things up nicely and for the most part used his defense when he had to rather than using it as the primary strategy. He mixed in a few serve and volleys. He flattened out his shots particularly his backhand which he has tended to loop too much in the past. He hit some extreme angles off the ground when Nadal was deep behind the baseline. He finished points off at the net. His volleys aren’t pretty, but he is very quick at the net and his long arms get a racket on just about everything. His net approaches were off very aggressive shots or there was a slight delay in his approach which made it difficult for Nadal to get clean passing shots.

El Flaco Says:

Nadal doesn’t have a lot of juice on his serve right now. It is possible that he is just being cautious to avoid a return of shoulder soreness. It could also be related to the heavier racquet. He wants his arm to adjust to the weight before he starts taking bigger swings on the serve.

margot Says:

jane: cheers I did read that. Match is hopeless for me, middle of night and much as I love Andy…..
Brilliant tweet from Cahill, something like it’ll be “fascinating to watch two surgeons at work.” You’ve just gotta love that man. Hope he stays at least on the fringes of Andy’s camp. Think he’s done a good job so far.
Monfils played thrilling, focused, patient tennis. It was a gr8 match, some of their rallies were unreal.
BTW, think the gods must have been listening to Roger….

grendel Says:

I too didn’t watch the match, but it’s great to hear from so many posters how intelligently he played. He’s always had the ability to beat absolutely anyone,and beat them well and for an almost compulsive counter-puncher, he has just about the most thrillingly aggressive (and unusual)strokes I’ve ever seen. Maybe he is at last coming to get the balance between defence and attack right.

The thing is, can he do it where it counts, in a slam? The situation with him is similar, I think, to that with Murray. He can relax in a relatively minor tourney, but when the stakes are high he finds it hard to give of his best. If he can somehow make a breakthrough, hopefully the confidence accrued will inject momentum into his game.

He is, much more of course than Murray, hopelessly unpredictable. But after all, that can work both ways. Mental strength comes in so many guises, and many a time I have seen Monfils pull out a startlingly offensive winner just when he seems to have gone off the boil and tamely surrendered ground gained. And judging from this Eurosport report, it sounds as if he dug deep when Nadal threatened to go on a rampage:

“Nadal, ever the fighter, responded gamely, winning the first three games of the second set as he blasted a shell-shocked Monfils with a succession of bullying shots out wide.
However, at 3-0 and with Nadal attacking another break point, Monfils summoned reserves of courage with a pair of risky backhand winners, holding serve when the Spaniard made one of several errors in the match as he mis-hit wide.” and “Nadal almost re-broke but Monfils saved break point with a flying smash and a strong serve; then, at 4-4, came the vital game as Monfils broke Nadal for a second time in the set.”

So maybe Monfils’ next exercise in unpredictability will be to pull out all the stops in, say, a semi at the AO. That’ll be something to watch!

jane Says:

Speaking of age, what about youth? Doglo, Raonic, Tomic and Dimitrov are all make splashes at their respective pre-AO events. Exciting to see, and also curious. Will they be more consistent this year? All, one or none? Will any crack the top ten? I think several guessers speculated at least one of them will. But which? Lots to anticipate.

jane Says:

*making not make

mem Says:


just got the chance to watch the nadal vs. monfils match. he outplayed my boy today! congratulations to him and great improvement for rafa this week. some tough matches under his belt; not a bad week.

from what i have seen, i didn’t think rafa played badly, but monfils played outstanding! goes to show just how tough it is to play with the same intensity week in and week out, day in and day out. anyway, onward to the ao. great match!

vamos beautiful rafa!

marrisv Says:

Yes, agree with mem. Rafa did play well. He got some good matches in and also had lot of court time to get used to the weight adjustment on his racket.

Hopefully he can have a very good AO

Humble Rafa Says:

I play so bad today. So bad.

I am going to have a terrible Aus Open. No fighting spirit, no love for the game, broken body…bad bad time.

grendel Says:


dolgopolov is 23, I think, not a spring chicken. However, as has been remarked by several posters, tennis age is not the same as ordinary age. Generally, people were talking about tennis legs – I don’t know, but I’d guess dolgopolov has fewer tourneys under his belt than Murray and co did at the same age. Depends how much he did in the Challengers I suppose.

But there’s another related idea. Wear and tear is not only on the body but on the mind. Players who have generally underperformed may – I am guessing – have reservoirs of untapped emotional energy. Man of the moment Monfils is an obvious case. You do get the feeling he could always pull a really huge one out. You (or I) don’t get that feeling with a great talent like Gasquet – somehow, he’s missed the boat.

Tsonga and del Potro are the other two possible candidates for the highest honours in my book. del Potro figures in this scenario even though he’s won a slam simply because we’ve seen so little of him at his very best.

I can only see these three disturbing the top 4, and it will be exciting if one of them manges to sneak a slam. Murray,note, is in a sort of limbo land – he still hasn’t properly broken through, and yet he is bracketed with the other three.

As for Dimitrov and Tomic, who can say? Maybe some massive new talent will suddenly spring from nowhere in the next year or two, and then in his wake another couple (you rarely seem to get a great champions emerging in absolute isolation – that’s a generalisation just begging to be knocked over, but providing you don’t take it too literally, I think it stands). Then the current crop will find more modest niches.

andrea Says:

congrats to monfils. that’s a nice win. bummer about federer and clijsters – hope they get better. and serena too.

boss Says:

for those of you interested, the back spasm occurred at 2-1 in this video, right before the 15-40 point. start at 18:02 and you can see that federer clearly felt pain…too bad it came for him now, but i’m sure he’ll be fine for AO.


boss Says:

you can also clearly see that federer didn’t bend his back properly for the 15-40 point as he was waiting for serve. must have been really painful

Cymru08 Says:

Humble Rafa, you must keep practising with humble illusion and motivation, no? Vamos!

jane Says:

grendel, agree with most of what you wrote (though the heart strains to hear it could happen for Gasquet still). I thought you were almost going to say something about “Dog years” which would’ve been a fun pun for Doglo’s tennis age. But as for Tsonga, Monfils and Delpo, I have to agree that they seem the most likely to spring a surprise, especially Delpo and Tsonga. Monfils, I am just not sure if he can sustain concentration, focus, brilliance for a whole two weeks, you know? Whereas I can see Tsonga and definitely Delpo getting on a momentum roll. I like you mention of Murray’s purgatory. He’s haunting the top four. (Mal)lingering you might say. Ready to break through with Ivan, I hope. Also, re: the new newbies, I notice you left off Raonic: was that deliberate? Just curious. Many “pundits” have said of all these young studs they see Milos as being the one who will win a slam first.

alison hodge Says:

jane hi jane it would be interesting,to have a thread ,on which one of the new talent coming through, will be the first to win a grand slam,or which of the older players will win there first grand slam,dont ya think?

jane Says:

Yes, that would be a good one alison. Especially as we await the first slam. (Though there is already some exciting tennis going on: it really is a short break.)

Humble Rafa Says:

Yes, agree with mem. Rafa did play well. He got some good matches in and also had lot of court time to get used to the weight adjustment on his racket.

No, I played very bad. Don’t let fact get in your way!

carlo Says:

Of course I love that idea for a new talent thread, alison.

Checking scores, I notice Dimitrov just won a qualifying match in Sydney.

Congratulation to Monfils! Didn’t have a chance to see the match – appreciate the posts about it.

Humble Rafa lol. I hope you are tuning in to watch Lady Forehand v Tomic.

Kimmi Says:

congrats to la monf. the courts in doha must suit his game. didnt he beat rafa before in the same tournament?

So much talent la monf and such a great mover. rafa could not pass him easily. if only he can repeat something like this in a big match..if only!

will it be the year of new grans slam winner? I hope so..


for those who did not see the match..full match here attached. Good news YouTube can provide full matches nowadays. I have watched a few. I love it :)

skeezerweezer Says:

Thanks Kimmi. Finally got to skim through some of the match on YT. Gael earned that win for sure. Gael was turning defense into offense very effectively. Everyone know he has a pretty big first serve and then……..plays a zillion feet too far behind the baseline and plays defense. If can be play more aggressive like this ( and be consistent at it ) he could be moving up the ladder very quickly. He is athletic, one of the best pure runners on tour. He could be real scary if he can put the right game together.

Something is still not right with Rafa. Imo is just not upstairs in the head. I keep going back to his movement, it just doesn’t seem right. Maybe the Rafa purist has better insight. Just take a look at some of his heyday matches. He never would NOT run down a shot. A couple of times against Monfils, he would hit a shot that should be a winner….and assume it… and not get ready for the next, leaving the court open. Never did that in the past, he would be all over the court no matter what. Also, it is subtle but seems he is just not preparing right for his shots, which could be movement ( lack thereof ) related. Notice how his unforced errors have been creeping up this past year? Rafa’s career unforced error stats has been ridiculously low.

jane Says:

I agree skeezerweezer. la Monf hit some amazing winners, but I thought to myself on a couple of occasions that “normally” Rafa would have tried to run down or get a racquet on that shot. That aspect might be, as you suggest, movement related. But perhaps the errors, where Rafa hits the ball just out or into the net, could be related to the new racquet and adjusting to hitting with it? As I understand, Rafa hasn’t been able to have a lot of prep time with the new racquet.

Murray Tackles Tomic In Brisbane; It’s All French After Federer, Nadal Exit Doha Says:

[…] Williams slipped and sprained her ankle. Kim Clijsters injured her hip. And today in Doha Roger Federer withdrew and then Rafael Nadal was upset. Leaving Murray as the lone Top 5 player left in either tour still […]

Michael Says:

That mauling by Djokovic in seven important finals have had a huge negative effect on Nadal’s game. Oflate he has been losing to players whom he would beat 10 out of 10 times. His unforced errors too is creeping up. Priori to Djokovic’s demolition, second line players almost give up the match even before playing Nadal as they know the result before hand. Not anymore. Now even a lowly ranked player knows well that he can beat Nadal provided he hits the line and make him run from corner to corner which is what Djokovic does with finesse. Nadal is suddenly looking very vulnerable and he gets tired quickly. We are used to seeing Nadal get to impossible balls and such amazing was his retrieving ability. Now Nadal tires and by the time it is third set you see him just scurrying around. Is Nadal in his last days ??? Might be I am prematurely writing him off and I hope it is just that.

mem Says:

Humble Rafa,

i thought you played pretty good considering you are working on things for the long run. you can’t win them all!

in all seriousness, anything can happen on any given day; nadal understands that better than any player i know; that is why he is always respecting all players; he knows that a lesser player can play “lights out” on any given day. so when certain people are always quick to find the negative everytime nadal loses to have something to harp about there is something wrong with them, not nadal. i consider the source and move on. if a person is always looking for something to make a mountain of, they can usually find it.

rafa had already stated that he is adjusting to the change in his racquet plus he wasnt able to practice the way he wanted in such a short time and he wanted to use this tournament to get in matches. so any fruitcake who knows anything about tennis know that nadal losing to monfils is not some kind of scary mystery. sure, he would have liked to have won, but he didn’t; monfils was the better player today; credit gael and move on. he can’t let a lost distort his vision; he doesn’t have time to cry over every lost. i’m happy that he got in many matches as possible. he lost to an inspired monfils.

in fact, he beat nadal in the quarters of doha in 2009, i think it was and nadal went on to win the 2009 AO. that’s not to say that he will the AO this year, but it is to say that some folk has to find something wrong with nadal anyway. they feel better when they do.

anyway, not a bad week for rafa. i like the aggression i saw this week, coming to the net and trying to plant himself on the baseline and not retreat so far back. it takes time to get all the kinks out! changes always take time but he is on the right track. i really like what i saw from him this week. he just needs to keep his eyes on the prize and continue working. people are free to write and say what they want. as a rafafan, i don’t have anything to complain about at this stage. so it’s all good!

Nims Says:

Are you guys not seeing that Rafa stubbornly playing inside the line or very close to the line. I believe that explains why he is having more UFE. But I saw a different style of play from NAdal yesterday compared to last year.

This should serve him good for the rest of the year. He could have easily become a defensive player to beat Monfils, but he stayed on the baseline instead. I’m happy that Rafa is changing his style, which will take time to reap benefits.

Lulu Iberica Says:

Sorry for Roger’s fans! I hope all the top ladies and gents are healthy for the AO. I didn’t see any matches today, but in an attempt to curb my pessimism, I will just say I hope mem and Nims are correct!

S Bizaki Says:

Maybe it’s just me chosing to forget about this from one year to the next, but the list of players withdrawing from the 2012 AO for health-related issues seems terribly long already, and we’re still 10 days away. Cilic’s withdrawal from the AO was confirmed this morning. So 2012 AO withdrawals confirmed to date include Söderling, Blake, Mayer, F. Gonzalez, Lisicki, Monaco, Cilic…

sheila Says:

after watching monfils beat nadal, this guy, along w/tsonga, berdych, delpotro, soderling, should consistently be winning nadal on hardcourts. these guys have “huge” games, but little belief because nadal is so relentless. but imho, techinically, these guys are taller, have bigger games & should be taking it to nadal on a hardcourt. they dont have the consistent focus either. too bad, it would make 2012 interesting if more players got into the mix rather than nadal & djokovic dominating again. i would love 2c 4 different players win slams.

alison hodge Says:

@sheila if jamies dodgy pyschic is to be believed,you may get your wish,nole wins ao,rafa wins fo,muzza wins wimby,delpo wins uso,ok sorry thats not four different players,but it would be at least two different players,so at least its a start,i agree its competition thats great for the sport not domination,rafa and roger are both getting tested now anyway,so hopefully the same will happen to nole too,hopefully muzza can make a break through and delpo will get back to his best and make things more interesting,all bodes well for this year anyway.

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