It’s been a rough couple of days for the Madrid Open. With Serena Williams already having pulled out of the tournament, now Roger Federer has done the same, citing a back injury.
It’s the latest ailment in what has been a rough start to 2016 for the 17-time Grand Slam champion. After undergoing the first surgery of his life for a torn meniscus after the Australian Open, Federer’s comeback was delayed due to illness in Miami. He finally returned at the Monte-Carlo Masters and quickly became the favorite in the top half of the draw after Novak Djokovic was upset in his opening match, but his run ended in the quarterfinals to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Federer wasn’t expected to be a contender in this tournament, given that he’d have to play Dominic Thiem and Rafael Nadal just to get to the semifinals, though Madrid has always been Federer’s best chance to contend with Nadal on clay. Instead, it will be the third of four Masters events he’s missed this year. This will eventually impact Federer’s ranking, but given that he likely wouldn’t have gotten too far, this likely won’t impact the calculus on his bid to end up as the No. 2 seed for Wimbledon over Andy Murray.
Adding that he hopes to be well in time for Rome next week, Federer told the press, “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…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.”
Setting aside 2013, in which he dealt with more serious back issues, this is the deepest Federer has gotten into a season without winning a title since 2009, when he won Madrid.