Roger Federer beamed holding his Olympic gold medal in doubles last August, and in October vowed to compete again for his home country of Switzerland in the 2009 Davis Cup. But Tuesday that promising vow rang hollow when he put this paragraph on his web site: “Today I am disappointed to announce that I am withdrawing from both Dubai and the Davis Cup tie in the United States. This was a hard decision to make as I am missing not only one of my favorite events on tour in Dubai but I am also missing out on an opportunity to help my country try and move on to the next round of Davis Cup. After injuring my back last fall, I did not have enough time to strengthen it completely. As a precautionary measure, I will use the next few weeks to make sure the back injury is fully rehabilitated and I am ready for the rest of the 2009 season.”
A “precautionary measure”? That’s a lame excuse. The last time we saw him it was ego and pride that brought him to tears, not a bad back. And note that his announcement doesn’t say anything about pulling out of Indian Wells, the Masters series event scheduled to start March 9, one day after the Davis Cup first round. So much for committment to your country. No wonder his favorite cap is the one emblazoned with his own initials.
The Swiss now will have to count on No. 18 Stanislas Wawrinka and a player to be named later. There are no other Swiss in the top 100. The next highest ranked Swiss player is No. 150 Stephane Bohli. Beyond that is No. 227 George Bastl and No. 244 Michael Lammer. Bastl was the last player to beat Pete Sampras at Wimbledon, pulling off the unlikely upset in 2002, but at 33, don’t expect him to reproduce that magic. This match is all but certain to be an easy walk for Andy Roddick, James Blake and the Bryan brothers. They went from underdogs to top dogs in one web site update. Anybody want to buy my ticket for Sunday’s dead rubbers?
Provided there’s no Swiss upset, next stop for the American team will be an away match in either Croatia or Chile in the second round later this spring.
This is the third consecutive Davis Cup match in the states where the international star power has wilted. Last April, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga pulled out days before the match in Winston-Salem, N.C., with a knee injury, and Richard Gasquet, suffering with blisters, competed only after the team outcome had been decided. In Portland 2007, then No. 4 Nikolay Davydenko passed on playing singles in the match where the U.S. won the cup.