In one of the most disappointing finishes to any tennis season in recent history, today’s highly anticipated clash between the best two players in the world, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, at the ATP Finals in London never took place as six-time champion Federer withdrew ahead of the match with a back injury.
“Unfortunately, I’m not match fit to play the match tonight,” Federer told the crowd. “Clearly I wish it wasn’t so. I tried all year to be ready for the [Barclays] ATP World Tour Finals, and I didn’t want it to end this way. I tried everything I could last night, also today – painkillers, treatment, rest, so forth, warm-up, until the very end – but I just can’t compete at this level with Novak. It would be too risky at my age to do this right now and I hope you understand.
“I wanted to come out personally and excuse myself. It’s been a great week for me. I played some great tennis and I love coming to The O2 and to London, and there’s been so many great memories for me here. Congrats of course to Novak, who’s played an amazing season, and an amazing tournament here as well. I hope we can play some more great matches, hopefully next year.
“Thanks to all you guys for making it special to come out and play tennis all around the world. I know you guys travel, as well, and spend a lot of money on tickets and so forth. We really, really appreciate it – me in particular. It keeps me going, it makes me tick, especially at this age. Hopefully, I can come back next year and get another chance to compete for the title here. So thank you very much and I’ll see you soon. I appreciate it.”
At 33, the thought of having to play such a physical match yesterday then turnaround and face a guy like Djokovic was going to be a tough test regardless, but with a back spasms and the Davis Cup next weekend, Federer simply wasn’t able to go.
It happens. And it’s happened to everyone.
So tough news. On the bright side Federer’s back issues usually work themselves out in short time. By that I don’t mean 100% heal, but rather return to some level of playability, which he’ll need against France on Friday.
Mostly injury free this year, Federer played a lot of tennis, so maybe all the matches and the tough one with Stan all caught up with him in the end. His body just isn’t getting any younger.
And while the timing isn’t great, at least this injury didn’t flareup mid-season which could have derailed him for an extended period. He’ll have Davis Cup then 5-6 weeks off to rest up for 2015.
So hopefully he can get some measure of relief before Friday’s start on the red clay. Whether that impacts his play is still unknown.
As for Djokovic, he gets his fourth ATP Finals title, third straight. However not in the manner he would have liked.
“We always give 100%,” said Djokovic told the crowd. “I’m sure that if he could’ve played, he would’ve done. So I wish him the best in his recovery.
“I’m not one of those players that celebrates these particular wins, but I have to reflect on the whole season. This trophy is definitely the crown for all the achievements that I had this year. I owe the credit to my team, to all the people who supported me all the way through, and plenty of joy. I’m very happy to be able to stand here and finish with this trophy.”
The Serb caps a great year with the No. 1 ranking, the ATP Finals title, a Wimbledon title, overall seven trophies and of course he got married and had a baby boy. It’s not his best season – I’m sure he’d have liked to have won another Slam or two, especially the French – but he’ll go into the six week off season a very happy, very content man.
And if I had to guess this won’t be the last time he’ll be sitting atop the year-end rankings. Hopefully it won’t ever be under these circumstances again.
“I’m glad during the stay in London for these 10 days I got a lot of sleep, because that will not be the case from now,” said Djokovic who has a growing family. “I’m looking forward to it. It’s the most beautiful feeling that my wife and I experience – holding a baby in your arms. There will be a lot of that without the racquet in next couple weeks for me.”
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