Federer pulls out of final, handing win to Djokovic
A mouth-watering finale to the season ended before it even began on Sunday when Roger Federer was forced to pull out due to injury prior to his ATP World Tour Final showdown with world No. 1 Novak Djokovic.
The 33-year-old Swiss, who spent two hours 48 minutes defeating compatriot Stanislas Wawrinka in a brutal semifinal the previous night, announced his decision on court as the 17,000-seat O2 Arena filled up.
It meant Djokovic became the first man to win the title three years in succession since Ivan Lendl in 1987.
World No. 2 Federer, who was bidding for a seventh title at the year-ender, apologized but told the crowd he was not “match-fit” after developing a back problem.
Federer said: “I hope you understand I wanted to come out personally and excuse myself for not playing. ... I can’t compete without a back at this level.”
Despite the huge anticlimax for the crowd, some of whom had forked out thousands of pounds for a courtside ticket, there was no booing, with applause breaking out as seven-time Wimbledon champion Federer spoke.
Explaining how the injury arose, Federer said later: “I was feeling great until yesterday’s tiebreaker. I felt all of a sudden the back was feeling funny.
“I tried to have treatment on it, medication, just tried to turn around as quick as possible really, but didn’t really feel much of an improvement overnight.”
It was only the third time in a career spanning nearly 1,000 matches that Federer has withdrawn because of injury.
Djokovic was not really in the mood for celebrating when he collected the trophy and a $1.92 million cheque.
“Obviously not the way I’d like to win this,” said the 27-year-old, who clinched the year-end world No. 1 ranking for the third time in four years this week.
“I feel sorry for Roger. I’ve been in tennis 10 years and I know Roger and Rafa [Nadal] have been the biggest competitors and always give their 100 percent. If Roger could have come out and played he would have played.
“I’m not the kind of player to celebrate these wins, but I have to celebrate the whole season and this trophy is the crown on the season,” he added.
To appease disappointed fans, home favorite Andy Murray, thrashed by Federer in the week, agreed to play Djokovic in a one-set exhibition match, before partnering John McEnroe in a doubles game against Tim Henman and Pat Cash.
Federer now faces an anxious week as he tries to recover for the Davis Cup final in Lille, France, next weekend.
The Davis Cup is the major honor that still eludes Federer, with Switzerland’s hopes resting on the shoulders of him and Wawrinka. Reuters