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Injury puts Federer’s US Open planning at risk

Roger Federer's US Open preparations could be in danger after the 17-time Grand Slam winner was beaten in his opening match at the Swiss Open while playing with back pain.

Injury puts Federer's US Open planning at risk
Federer also suffered back pain at the German Open earlier this month. Photo: AFP

The top seed, who was attending the small clay court event for the first time since winning it nine years ago, was also dealing with the added stress of testing a new larger racquet, coping with his physical limitations and facing a big hitter in Daniel Brands.

The German produced a 6-3, 6-4 win to make the quarter-finals, coming good after taking the Swiss star to three sets in Hamburg last week.

Federer, 31, who has been troubled occasionally in a relatively injury-free career by back spasms, said that he has been dealing with them for a few weeks now.

He hinted that he will be taking a late decision on whether or not to play the Montreal Masters, a key US Open warm-up event, which begins on August 5th.

"I've had serious problems with the back, I had to get some anti-inflammatories last week in Hamburg due to the pain," he said after Thursday's loss, his third of the summer against an opponent ranked outside the top 50.

Federer is currently ranked fifth in the world, his lowest level in a decade after going out in the Wimbledon second round to Sergiy Stakhovsky and then losing last week in the Hamburg semi-finals to Argentine qualifier Federico Delbonis.

Federer had been hoping to both build confidence as well as test out a new larger racquet. Instead, he must now work on his back and hope for the best.

"I will have to do a lot of exercises and see how it all feels. My main priority now is to fix my back. I would love to be able to train at 100 percent," said the former world number one.

"I'll have to see if the rehab is enough to let me play in Montreal. If it is, I'll go; if not, then it gives me another week."

The Swiss said that due to his physical problems, it is hard for him to tell where he is with his new racquet anyway.

 "A change like this is very important but I honestly can't tell right now due to my low level. It's hard to analyse anything.

"I still don't have even enough information to try and explain. I have no clue where I am right now with the racquet change."

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ROGER FEDERER

Is this the end of the road for Swiss tennis legend Roger Federer?

Roger Federer is talking optimistically about returning to his "highest level" after knee surgery, but does tennis have to start adjusting to a future without the Swiss star?

Is this the end of the road for Swiss tennis legend Roger Federer?
Is it the end of the line for Roger? Photo: Martin BUREAU / AFP

The 20-time Grand Slam winner announced on Wednesday that he would be sidelined until 2021 after his second operation in a matter of months.

Federer remains upbeat, tweeting: “I plan to take the necessary time to be 100 percent ready to play at my highest level.”

In some ways 2020 is a good season to miss after the coronavirus ravaged the tennis schedule. Writing Federer off in the past has proved dangerous.

He returned from a six-month injury lay-off to claim the Australian Open in 2017, winning his eighth Wimbledon crown later that year.

But he will be 40 in 2021 and is now heading into uncharted territory.

Despite his groaning trophy cabinet, there are two factors that will motivate Federer to keep going — the risk of losing his grip on the men's Grand Slam title record and a missing Olympics singles gold medal.

Rafael Nadal has 19 majors, just one shy of Federer's mark and Djokovic has 17.

Spain's Nadal will be fancied to draw level with Federer at the French Open, rescheduled for September, while few would bet against Djokovic winning in New York weeks earlier.

In April, Federer said he was “devastated” when Wimbledon was cancelled for the first time since World War II. Last year he fell agonisingly short at the All England Club, failing to convert two championship points on his own serve against Djokovic.

The Wimbledon grass probably remains his best chance of adding to his Grand Slam collection — he has not won the US Open since 2008 and his only title at Roland Garros came in 2009.

Even though Federer has slipped from the very pinnacle of the game, he is still a major threat to Nadal and Djokovic.

'Golden' ambitions

Last year, the world number four had a 53-10 win-loss record and he reached the semi-finals at the Australian Open in January in his only tournament this year.

Federer, who is still six ATP titles short of Jimmy Connors' all-time record of 109, has one glaring omission from his CV — the Olympic title.

The Swiss won doubles gold in Beijing in 2008 with compatriot Stan Wawrinka but lost in the singles final to Andy Murray in London four years later.

The postponed Tokyo Games will almost certainly be Federer's last opportunity to complete a career “golden” Grand Slam — he will turn 40 on the day of the closing ceremony next year.

Tennis will feel the loss of the elegant Federer keenly when he walks off the court for the last time.

Djokovic and Nadal have been the dominant forces in recent years but the Swiss remains the biggest draw and last month topped Forbes' list of the world's highest-earning athletes.

His last appearance on court was in front of nearly 52,000 fans — touted by organisers as a world record for tennis — at a charity match against Nadal in Cape Town in February.

Federer is nearly always the crowd favourite wherever he plays and has proved a perfect ambassador for the sport since he won his first Grand Slam title in 2003.

He certainly expects to be back and competitive next year.

“I will be missing my fans and the tour dearly but I will look forward to seeing everyone back on tour at the start of the 2021 season,” he tweeted.

The avalanche of support from his adoring fans showed they would miss him too, but they will have to get used to a time when he is gone for good.

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