Federer's back is key in Davis Cup final

Updated: 2014-11-19 15:06


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Federer's back is key in Davis Cup final

Switzerland's Davis Cup team player Roger Federer reacts as he attends a news conference at the Pierre Mauroy stadium in Villeneuve d'Ascq, northern France, November 18, 2014. [Photo/Agencies]

PARIS - Roger Federer was at the top of his game in London last week, sweeping past opponents as if his age were not an issue. A back injury over the weekend changed everything, casting serious doubts over his chances of winning the Davis Cup, or even playing against France in the final.

The 17-time Grand Slam champion picked up the injury in a hard-fought win over Swiss teammate Stan Wawrinka at the ATP Finals, forcing him to retire ahead of the title match against Novak Djokovic.

One statistic speaks volumes about the seriousness of the 33-year-old Federer's injury: His walkover at the season finale marked only the third time in his career that he withdrew before a match, each time due to back problems.

As if Federer's injury concerns were not enough, the Swiss are also worried about Wawrinka's morale as the country bids for its first Davis Cup victory. After wasting four match points against Federer in London, the Australian Open champion said he "can either be destroyed or bounce back" from such a tough loss.

Following the match, two men are also said to have been involved in a heated spat after Wawrinka complained about noise coming from Federer's box in between serves toward the end of the third set. Federer defused the tensions by posting a picture on Twitter of a united Switzerland team, with Wawrinka making bunny ears behind his teammate, and both players insisted on their friendship on Tuesday.

"We had a conversation after the match. Everything's totally relaxed about the situation. We're old enough," Federer said. "I just wanted to see if there were any hard feelings because it was probably one of the loudest moments of the match. Clearly a lot of noise. Like I said, there is no hard feeling whatsoever. We're having a good time here. We are friends, not enemies."

Federer traveled to the northern French city of Lille by private jet on Monday, hoping to recover in time before the best-of-five series beginning Friday with two singles matches, followed by doubles on Saturday and reverse singles on Sunday.

"It was definitely not good enough to practice yesterday," Federer told reporters Tuesday. "I wish progress would be faster, but we're trying hard. We're heading in that direction. I feel it's definitely a little bit better than it was on Saturday night and Sunday and also Monday. Baby steps, I guess. I'm hopeful."

Federer had been in tremendous form this season, playing a more offensive game and bagging five titles while staying injury-free after back problems damaged his 2013 campaign.

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