Federer to skip clay-court season after defeat to world No175
Roger Federer has played his last match until early June, it emerged last night, as the world No1 suffered a shock defeat to Australian qualifier Thanasi Kokkinakis and then announced that he will be skipping the entirety of the clay-court season.
It had been thought that Rafael Nadal’s recent struggles with injury might encourage Federer to have a crack at the French Open, his least successful grand slam by far. But Federer – who will hand the No1 position back to Nadal when the next set of rankings are published tomorrow week – told reporters “I decided not to play [on clay].”
Federer’s defeat was a bitter pill for the Miami Open, which had earlier been challenged by Caroline Wozniacki to take a hard line on abusive fans.
He looked disgusted at his erratic performance, which brought him a second defeat in consecutive matches for the first time since 2014.
“I wasn’t feeling good,” said Federer. “With my movement, things weren’t absolutely working. I feel like every time I had chances, something bad happened: wrong decision-making by me, good decision-making by him. I don’t know why I could never get to any level that I was happy with today.”
Kokkinakis is ranked a lowly No175, although that underestimates his potential hugely. He was only 18 when he first broke the top 100, climbing almost as quickly as fellow Australian Nick Kyrgios, but he then suffered a litany of injuries, the most serious of them affecting his shoulder and back.
After receiving a wild card into qualifying here, Kokkinakis stormed into the second round of the main draw without dropping a set. He held his nerve as last night’s match went to a deciding-set tie-break, completing a 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 victory when Federer miscued a service return after 2hr 21min.
As for the rankings demotion, Federer said “I deserve it after this match. That’s how I feel. Just so bad.” Had he taken any of the three match points he held against Juan Martin del Potro in the Indian Wells final last weekend, he would have sealed the No 1 spot until May 21. Instead, he left himself needing to reach the quarter-finals here – which would have required three wins.
Yet Nadal may not remain on top for long. Federer has no points to defend on the clay, while Nadal will have to dominate in the way he did last season to avoid slipping back again. Unless he successfully defends his title at the Monte Carlo Masters, his reign will end again on April 23, and the see-saw will swing back to Federer again. To return to the Wozniacki issue, she put out a hard-hitting statement in regard to her Friday-night defeat at the hands of Puerto Rico’s Monica Puig. “People in the crowd threatened my family, wished death upon my mom and dad, called me names that I can’t repeat here and told my fiance’s niece and nephew (who are 10 years old) to sit down and shut the f*** up, meanwhile security and staff did nothing to prevent this and even accepted this to take place … I hope the Miami Open chooses to take this seriously because it’s a horrible example to set for the next generation of players and fans.”
But the new Miami Open tournament director James Blake replied in brusque fashion, saying that no officials had noticed anything of the sort, and suggesting that Wozniacki’s family should have reported the abuse at the time if they wanted it to be dealt with.
There was disappointment for new British No1 Kyle Edmund, who has not won since his magnificent run to the Australian Open semi-finals. Edmund served for the win yesterday against Frances Tiafoe, the dynamic American 20-year-old, but was broken and eventually slipped to a 7-6, 4-6, 7-6 defeat.
Frustrated: Caroline Wozniacki tells the umpire of the hostility from Monica Puig’s supporters