PARIS: Roger Federer said Tuesday he still hopes to be able to defend Swiss colors in the Davis Cup final against France in Lille this weekend despite a crippling back injury.
He added that he and teammate Stan Wawrinka are back on the best of terms after an ugly bustup.
It has been a troubled buildup to say the least for the Swiss pair as they seek a first ever Davis Cup triumph for their country against a powerful French team on a specially laid indoor claycourt inside the Pierre Mauroy stadium — home for Lille football club — and expected to host a record 27,000 crowd.
All had been going well until the two Swiss stars — ranked second and fourth in the world — were pitted against each other in the semi-finals of the prestigious ATP World Tour Finals in London on Saturday evening.
Many thought there would be some kind of an “understanding” between the two given the importance of what faced them in Lille the following week.
Instead they embarked on one of the most draining matches of the season — nearly three hours of cut-throat tennis that Federer won 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (8/6) after saving four match points along the way.
There was a price to pay for both players, though, with the Australian Open champion distraught after a heart-breaking loss and Federer ailing with a back spasm that forced him the next day to pull out of the final against Novak Dkokovic.
On top of that, there was a bustup that followed — Wawrinka taking umbrage at what he saw as inappropriate words from Federer’s wife Mirka from the players’ box at a key point in the third set.
Both players in Lille on Tuesday admitted that there had been an altercation, but both said it had been overplayed by the press and that all was back to normal service between the two — Olympic doubles champions in Beijing in 2008.
“We had a conversation after the match. Everything’s totally relaxed about the situation. We’re old enough,” Federer said of the altercation.
“I just wanted to see if there was any hard feelings because it was probably one of the loudest moments of the match, around 5-4, 5-5 score. Clearly a lot of noise.
Wawrinka, who has long lived in the shadow of the man many consider to be the greatest tennis player of all time, agreed.
“For me there’s not much to say because it’s become a big deal because of the press,” he said
“But for us it’s nothing really. It took us five minutes to talk about that, to think about the next main goal that we have — the Davis Cup this weekend.”
More worryingly for the Swiss was the state of Federer’s back — an injury which has dogged the 33-year-old Swiss champion throughout the latter part of his career.
As of Tuesday evening he had been unable to undertake any practice at all on claycourts, a surface which he last played on in losing to Ernests Gulbis in the last 16 of the French Open in Paris on June 1.
The 17-time major winner was circumspect over whether he would be able to play on Friday when the two opening rubbers of the final take place.
Asked what the percentages were that he would be able to play he replied: “It’s impossible to give you an answer. As long as you are not on court practicing, you have no references.
“I’m making some progress. But I know I don’t have a month ahead of me to get better. I need to get better quickly. I’m trying whatever I can.
But I can’t give you a precise percentage.”
A Federer withdrawal would be most likely fatal to Swiss hopes of an historic Davis Cup win .
Although Wawrinka, at fourth in the world, is comfortably ranked above all the French players, after him the fall off in the Swiss team is steep with Marco Chiudinelli 212th and Michael Lammer 508th.
French captain Arnaud Clement said that his team were not even considering contesting the Davis Cup final without the presence of Federer.
“We have been preparing for the last 10 days to play against a Swiss team with Federer and Wawrinka in it,” he said.
Clement said that he had yet to decide who would play the opening two singles on Friday, but Jo-Wilfried Tsonga looks sure to be top choice with Richard Gasquet slightly ahead of Gael Monfils for the second slot.