Federer takes positives out of Monfils loss, but tight-lipped about doubles

Switzerland's Roger Federer reflects on his Davis Cup defeat by Gael Monfils in Lille on Friday

Marianne Bevis
By Marianne Bevis

The two big questions following the straight-sets loss of Roger Federer to Gael Monfils in the second rubber of the Davis Cup final in Lille focused, inevitably, on the top Swiss and his back. And the questions were not unconnected.

How was the Federer back that had flared up last weekend and forced him out of the final of the World Tour Finals? And could he, despite a heavy opening loss, play in both doubles and reverse singles if his captain deemed it best?

First the back: “Well it is what it is. You accept the fact that you’re playing the way you feel. But [the match] wasn’t all negative. I started to feel better as the match went on. That’s very encouraging, I must say.”

Federer had not lifted a racket until Wednesday night, and had another short practice early yesterday and then in the evening. But it was not just his lack of practice that concerned, but his lack of time to adjust from hard courts to clay—a surface demanding flexible movement and a strong back.

“Clearly I did feel it, not having hit and played and moved at all for five days, and Gael did play well… Credit to him for really coming out and bringing it.

“From my side, as the match went on, I just started to loosen up. I guess I needed to hit 30 big serves, I needed to slide, I needed to be in defence, I needed to play offensive tennis, get information quickly.

“The problem became that I didn’t play on clay much. That’s a good problem for me to have, to be quite honest. It put the back issues on the back burner, which is better this way. I like it.”

Was he worried about worsening the injury?

“It was just overall fear that you play with after coming back from injury, and particularly the back… You don’t have to be in unbelievably excruciating pain, but it takes a while for it to leave your mind. It’s like a ghost, it’s there, Whoa, be careful. But that’s why it was good for me to play three sets today. Definitely gives us a lot of information.

“[Mentally], you have to let it go. You can’t play the match like that. That’s why I’m happy it eventually left my mind.

“I would think that I’m going to get better as the weekend goes on. I hope I’ll be fine tonight and tomorrow morning to give maximum possibilities for Severin and back up Stan and the rest of the team.”

And so to the doubles rubber, which on today’s evidence could become the decisive match. Wawrinka and Federer won Olympic gold together in 2008, but have not played together very often—and lost the only doubles rubber they have played I Davis Cup this year.

But Severin Luthi and Federer would not be drawn on a decision. Asked whether Federer had more chance of winning in the doubles than singles, their little exchange certainly amused, but did not elucidate:

Luthi: “You don’t know before the match. It’s tough to say. I think it’s very positive that [Roger] felt better and better the longer the match was going. Yeah, we will see what the right decision is, but I can’t tell you right now.”

Q “I don’t think you answered my question.”

Luthi: “That’s possible (smiling).”

Q “Maybe you didn’t understand.”

Federer: “Or maybe he didn’t want to answer you. Put that one in the equation, as well.”

Q “Maybe you can answer, Roger. You’re more spontaneous.”

Federer: “No, no.”

Luthi: “I understood the question.”

Eventually, though, Federer did concede that he would play if asked: “We’ll talk about it. Right now I feel somewhat all right. That’s the encouraging part. Whether it’s the right move, that’s just something I can give my information to Severin and Stan and the team, and then they together will take hopefully the right decision. So right now I don’t know. But I’ll definitely make myself available if I feel that I can play proper tennis, which at the end I was able to do.

“I’m coming out of the match without any pain, which is good, too. It was not a five setter with me totally exhausted. So if I have to find something positive about it, I’ll say that. [But] if I play the doubles and the singles, it needs to be a lot better than today.”

It seems right, though, to give the final word to Swiss team-mate Wawrinka, who kept the tie very much alive, as Federer stressed:

“One positive thing today is that Stan won his match. It was extremely important for us and for him, too, and for our spirits. I just love having that. For me, Stan’s performance stands out more than what happened in the second match. That was a great one. I was very, very happy for him.”

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