In an unsurprising move, Roger Federer has pulled out of the Rogers Cup in Montreal next week.
After his opening round loss to Daniel Brands in Gstaad, the 17-time major champion said that his back had been giving him problems for a few weeks and that his status for Montreal was questionable. This withdrawal could have been expected from the time he announced the back injuries, and at this point in his career, health takes priority over everything else.
Even if Federer has done some good rehabbing of his back the last week and a half and gotten some necessary rest, it isn't worth playing Montreal because the back problems would have cut into his training time on-court. The way it looks now, he would have been hard-pressed to get past the quarterfinals, and with his recent form there is no guarantee he would have even reached that stage.
Personally, I just hope that the week off does him well and he can go into Cincinnati healthy and with a good dose of optimism. He has always done well at that event, being a five time champion, and perhaps going to a place where he has had so much success since 2005 will help shake him out of this slump. He is also defending champion, so having a good result there is important (though it will be difficult if he is the #5 seed).
Roger is 30-10 on the season in 11 tournaments with one title. Before the Rogers Cup in Toronto last year (which he didn't play), he was 51-7 in 12 tournaments with five titles (a Slam and two Masters and two 500s). 2012 was certainly a very special year and right from the start Roger had his sights set on claiming Wimbledon and the world #1 ranking. The fantastic end to the season in 2011 gave him confidence and momentum heading into the next season, and that entire stretch from Basel to Cincinnati the following August was one of the greatest runs he's ever had in his career.
Roger said before this season began that the year would be one of transition, and up to this time it has certainly been that. Apart from a few patches of brilliance every now and then, it has been a pretty disappointing campaign thus far. Whether it is just natural decline, low confidence, or the back injuries, or all of the above, he has not had the results he would have enjoyed and has lost to nine different players, six of whom he really should not have lost to (Benneteau, Berdych, Nishikori, Stakhovsky, Delbonis, and Brands).
So far the year has been the exact opposite of the first seven months in 2012. Not only was he healthy (for the most part) and playing spectacular tennis week in and week out, but he had the confidence to win close matches that he could have and perhaps should have lost. This year, the confidence and self-belief is low and he is losing those see-saw matches that he won so often last year.
The fire in his eyes seems to be out this year with the exception of the Australian Open, although as I said, we don't know how much of the last 7 months he's been dealing with his back problems. We know he was struggling with it in Indian Wells and now in Hamburg and Gstaad, but, and I only speculate, he could have been having back issues at every tournament this year and all he can do is manage it as best he can.
The rest of the year, barring any injury, Roger will play Cincinnati, the US Open, Shanghai, Basel, and the World Tour Finals if he qualifies. Right now, it looks like it will be hard for him to win 50 matches this year. I don't really have any expectations for these next tournaments he plays; I just want him to stay healthy, because with health will come better play, I am almost sure. It hasn't been a fun season as a fan, and for me personally it's hard seeing him look unhappy on court and in pain. Having many injuries the last few years playing tennis, I understand.
Looking forward to Cincinnati to see what the future holds for Roger, but for now I'm excited for Montreal, my country's biggest tournament. It won't be as enjoyable without Roger there but it should be interesting nevertheless with Djokovic, Murray, Nadal, Ferrer, del Potro, and Berdych all there (Tsonga withdrew as well).
PS: 200th article on this blog!