After Serena Williams, Roger Federer was the next big name to withdraw from the Mutua Madrid Open. In a press conference early on Monday afternoon, the World No. 3 sat down to talk to the press and explained that he had struggled with back issues over the past few days.
The last time Roger Federer won a match in Madrid was in 2013 — and after skipping the event in 2014 and losing to Nick Kyrgios in his opening match last year, the Swiss won’t be getting another win under his belt in the Spanish capital in 2016. During a press conference at 2:20pm, the No. 3 seed announced that he was forced to pull out of the Masters 1000 event due to a bad back.
“I arrived and I was okay, and then I practiced on Saturday and hurt my back a little bit in practice and then stopped early. Supposed to practice for two hours; had to stop after an hour and 15. Then, well, I was scheduled to practice yesterday and today, but just don’t feel like I can practice.”
Federer was scheduled to play the winner of Nicolas Mahut and Joao Sousa on Wednesday night but had skipped practices in the past few days — he’ll be replaced by a lucky loser and pulled out of the event a little earlier because he didn’t want to take any risks.
“At this point, I don’t want to take more chances as I know I’m not going to be fully ready for Wednesday,” he said. “I would rather play it safe and rest up now and get ready for Rome — so that’s the schedule here now.”
Federer said he had practiced well in the lead up to the Mutua Madrid Open in Switzerland and was disappointed at being forced to pull out — considering he had rearranged his schedule to play in Madrid.
“I was hoping to play,” he said. “I changed my schedule around and practiced well in Switzerland before coming here. This is not really what I wanted to do, come here and do a press conference about pulling out. It’s been a tough year, so I hope it gets better from here.”
Still, Federer remains optimistic for the next couple of weeks and feels he has had sufficient preparation on the slippery surface over the past few weeks and also before Monte Carlo.
“I’ve been playing a lot of practice on clay,” he said. “I’ve been putting a lot of hours in. Now also the last two weeks, I was back on the clay even though it was cold in Switzerland. Maybe that didn’t help my back. I’m not sure, but I practiced there for many days as well. From that standpoint, I’m ready and okay. I don’t need always a lot, lot of matches to feel 100 percent ready.”
Overall, the 34-year-old explained that his withdrawal from the Mutua Madrid Open is a precautionary move, as he hopes to get better and be ready in time for the Italian Open in Rome.
“The goal now is to play Rome and hopefully arrive there somewhat early so I have a good preparation, and, you know, that I can play hopefully a good tournament,” he said. “Still, again, let’s see how my back is going to be and my preparation. If I can’t play Rome it’s not the end of the world. The goal clearly now is to play there and do well, like I did last year.”
So far, the World No. 3 has only played three tournaments this year and 2016 has seen Federer withdraw from several tournaments like Rotterdam, Indian Wells and Miami: an unusual situation for the 17-time Grand Slam champion, who never had surgery up until this year.
“I mean, I am frustrated,” he said. “I’m a little sad of course not to be playing here. At the same time, I’m still upbeat that the back issue is going to go away. I would rather have it being the back than the knee. So, from that standpoint I see it as more positive than negative, to be honest.”