Davis Cup final: Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka reunited and optimistic

Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka both face the media ahead of Switzerland's Davis Cup final clash with France

Marianne Bevis
By Marianne Bevis

The last two days have thrust Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka into the tennis spotlight for all the wrong reasons—and such is their fame that rumours and counter-rumours have played out far beyond the tennis pages of the media.

That their season, far from being over, still has one final battle—for a trophy that their nation of Switzerland has never won—made things a good deal worse. This Friday, Federer and Wawrinka lead the Swiss campaign for a first Davis Cup.

With Switzerland boasting two men in the top four for the first time, 2014 seemed to bring about a fortunate aligning of stars for this nation that has a population the size of Greater London.

Federer regained the form, fitness and rankings that had drifted last year to finish 2014 with five titles, the No2 ranking, more match-wins than anyone else. Wawrinka, who reached his first World Tour Finals a year ago, went on to claim his first Grand Slam in Australia and his first Masters in Monte Carlo.

But on Saturday night in London, the Swiss took on the tone of ‘star-crossed lovers’.

As luck would have it, the two men faced one another in the semis of this year’s season finale, and it turned into a blockbuster. But Federer’s win in a third-set tie-break was soon tainted by rumours of an off-court row between the friends.

But worse was to come: that tie-break had triggered a back spasm for Federer, a chronic condition that has occasionally hit his otherwise injury-free career. It was, indeed, his back that interrupted his 2013 season, and this time, it forced him to withdraw from Sunday’s title fight against Novak Djokovic.

So with on-going reports of ill words between the main protagonists as well as a serious physical issue, all eyes turned to Lille, where Federer and Wawrinka hastened yesterday.

For to make matters worse for the Swiss, the final is on French soil—on clay—where an impressively strong French squad has spent a week-long training camp while the Swiss played four tough matches on a slow, hard court in London.

No surprise, then, that there was huge media interest at the traditional pre-tournament team press conference to find out the truth behind the headlines from the horses’ mouths.

First, the Federer-Wawrinka relationship. Already both men had tweeted a team photo, all smiles and upbeat message—and that is just how it continued: The perfect example of ‘united we stand, divided we fall’.

First Federer, always up front, always matter-of-fact: “We had a conversation after the match. Everything’s totally relaxed about the situation. We’re old enough. We have Severin as coach and Davis Cup captain and friend who was there, as well.

“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. Like I said, there’s no hard feelings whatsoever. We’re having a good time here. We are friends, not enemies. But obviously it was maybe one of those heat of the moment situations.

“I don’t think from this point forward there’s much to say about it anymore.”

Then Wawrinka: “As Roger said, I think first thing, we had no problem together. We talk about that already straight after the match. Not only about that, about many things. We know how to deal when we have a small thing like that.

“About the match, was not the first thing was happening during the match. I don’t think the umpire was doing great job. As you can see also at the beginning of the third set with the overrule and everything, was quite a mess already.

“But, again, for me there’s not much to say because it’s become a big deal because of the press, because of you. 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.”

The questions persisted, the Swiss declined—Federer: “I think everything has been said, I don’t know what the big deal is really”—and the moderator moved things on. There was, after all, a rather more serious barrier to Davis Cup success for the Swiss: Federer’s back. And he admitted that he had not yet been able to practise.

“First of all, I needed rest because you need to have the inflammation go away. Then it’s exercises, treatment. Back issues are different for everybody.

“Clearly I’m not going to talk exactly about what my back problem is. It’s something I’ve had in the past. At least I’m an experienced back guy (smiling). From that standpoint, I feel like I have a great team around me. I know as well a little bit myself how quickly I can move forward.

“But it’s been a slow process. I wish I could be on the practice courts, but I can’t be there yet. I’m hopeful for tomorrow.”

He added in French: “I’m hoping that I can play. That’s why I’m here. I hope I’ll have the best possibility to play. I have the medical staff and my friends here who are making me feeling better. I have less mental pain already… I’m a very positive person and I do believe I always can do. [But] as long as you are not on court, you have no references. I’m making some progress… I need to get better quickly and I’m trying whatever I can.”

But the conference would end, as it had started, on the personal dynamics of the Federer-Wawrinka relationship, and this time, the French-speaking Wawrinka led: “We have known each other for a long time.

“We just say things to each other and then we think about something else. We never had major problems between us because we know each other well. We are friends. We get along well. We know that in one particular tennis match, especially in a semi-final, there can be tensions. We are trying to win the match, of course, but after, whoever wins, it’s OK.”

Federer was clearly grateful for Wawrinka taking the lead: “I like when Stan answers (smiling). It’s true that the past days were difficult for me because I wasn’t able to play that final… But [the semi-final] was an incredible match, it was an historical match. There was a great atmosphere. Now we are here and everything is very relaxed.”

And it was Wawrinka who wrapped things up, too—and with a nice touch of humour: “We’re going to wait until you’re all outside before Roger stands up because he has trouble standing (laughter).”

And Federer added: “I’m going to stay here until tomorrow, not moving (smiling).”

Yes, they had everyone smiling, but not until tomorrow will France, Switzerland and fans of tennis around the world know whether Federer will indeed be moving, and doing so well enough to challenge a mighty French team.

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