Shockeroo at the Barclay’s ATP World Tour Finals in London Nov. 16 as Roger Federer withdrew from the final against Novak Djokovic due to back spasms, leaving an admittedly mentally exhausted Nole the winner in a walkover.
But the real shock may be the underlying reason for the withdrawal. Simon Briggs, tennis correspondent for The Telegraph, reports that Fed got into a heated exchange with compatriot Stan Wawrinka in the locker room after their taut semifinal duel, which at the very least delayed treatment for Fed’s back injury. The reason for the exchange: Stan the Man had taken exception to Feddy Bear’s wife, Mirka, rooting too loudly for her man and against himself.
Tennis players regularly take their opponents’ “teams” to task for such cheerleading. Fed’s been known to tell the Djokovic clan to shut up and Rafael Nadal’s coach, his Uncle Toni, to pipe down. Sometimes the players get on their own boxes as when Nole told his father once to leave an arena. And though Fed and Stan are said to get along well, Fed once suggested that Stan was at fault for their failure to win the elusive year-end team Davis Cup and then claimed that reporters misinterpreted his French. And don’t forget Stan was a sidekick until he won the Australian Open this year. As I explore in my novel “Water Music,” the first in my series “The Games Men Play,” a rival is always a potential buddy as long as he’s not a real threat. Once he challenges you, all bets are off.
I love how Briggs describes Mirka in the article as “the power behind the throne” as if she and Fed were Lord and Lady Macbeth. Please. He’s her husband, the father of her children. All the wives and support teams get into the heat of the moment. And conversely, I’ve also seen them graciously congratulate opponents.
The question now is: Will Fed’s back - and his relationship with Stan – heal in time for the Nov. 21-23 Davis Cup finals between Switzerland and France in Lille?
This is the only title Fed doesn’t have. My bet is that it will.