Roger Federer is optimistic he will be fit for next weekend’s Davis Cup final after his dramatic withdrawal from the ATP World Tour Finals.
The world number two had been scheduled to play Novak Djokovic in a highly-anticipated climax to the tournament at London’s O2 Arena but pulled out with a back injury suffered in his epic semi-final victory over Stan Wawrinka.
Federer and Wawrinka are due to play together next weekend in Lille as they attempt to beat France and earn Switzerland a first Davis Cup title.
It is one of very few major trophies missing from Federer’s glittering CV and the occasion was shaping up to be one of the highlights of the season.
Federer said: “The way I feel right now, there’s no way I can compete at any level really. Probably in a few days it’s going to be better, but right now it’s not good enough.”
Federer’s 2013 season was seriously derailed by back problems and fitness has been the key cornerstone of his stellar 2014 campaign.
Asked about his immediate plans, the 33-year-old said: “Recovery obviously as quickly as possible, and then travelling to France at some point and getting ready on the clay for the Davis Cup final.”
Federer’s withdrawal handed the trophy to Djokovic, making him the first player since Ivan Lendl in the 1980s to win it three years in a row.
The news, which was relayed to the sell-out crowd by Federer shortly before the match had been due to start, clearly came as a major disappointment – but they accepted it with little dissent.
And the mood picked up when they were told the match would be replaced by an exhibition clash between Djokovic and Andy Murray, which the world number one won 8-5.
Murray had been at home in Surrey, England, playing computer games when he received the call at 2pm from ATP executive chairman and president Chris Kermode.
Kermode revealed Murray – who also played in a doubles match with John McEnroe, Tim Henman and Pat Cash – accepted the invitation immediately and volunteered his services for free.
Djokovic praised Murray for coming to the rescue, saying: “Luckily Andy was in London. I want to thank him for coming out and making an effort.
“It really is an effort. I know how it feels when you finish the season, as he did on Thursday. Probably the last thing he’s thinking about is tennis now.
“He wants to rest after a long season. He receives a call. He comes out and plays an hour. Now he’s still playing doubles. It’s very genuine from him.”
It is only the third time in his long career that Federer has given an opponent a walkover, while he has never pulled out during a match.
Fans will be contacted within the next 48 hours and should receive a partial refund as well as priority for next year’s final.