Federer backs out of Cincinnati

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It didn’t take long for a battered Roger Federer to make the call.

After suffering a 6-3, 6-4 loss to 20-year-old Alexander Zverev in the Coupe Rogers final Sunday, he needed less than 24 hours to decide that attempting another Masters 1000 event in Cincinnati was a bad idea.

And so, he’s out.

Lucky loser Thomas Fabbiano of Italy will replace him, and get a bye in the first round.

Federer is the second top seed to pull out after the draw, after Kei Nishikori’s right wrist troubled him enough in practice to lead him to withdraw.

And it means that next Monday, Rafael Nadal will be the new world No. 1 on the ATP Tour.

Not vintage, still a finalist

Federer scuffled all week long in Montreal. He never really moved that well. And he dropped a lot of sweat. But he still managed to reach the final.

On Sunday, though, he visibly appeared to get worse, perhaps an issue with his back. Early in the second set, the velocity on Federer’s serve dropped. And his motion even looked compromised.

By the end of the match, he wasn’t even bending over in his typical serve return position.

He was standing nearly straight up, and barely moving.

During the week, Federer had made a point of mentioning that he felt healthy. But he didn’t really downplay it during his post-match press conference.

“You know, felt all right all week. Had a bit of muscle pain, aches and pains here and there, just because it’s back on the match courts, on the hard courts. After vacation and practice, it’s always a bit of a shock for the body,” he said. “We’ll have to wait and see now how I feel in the next couple of days.”

It took less than one day.

And in withdrawing, Federer ‘fessed up that it was, indeed, the back.

“I am very sorry to pull out of the Western and Southern Open as I always enjoy playing. Cincinnati has some of the best fans in the world and I am sorry I will miss them,” Federer said in a statement. “Unfortunately, I tweaked my back in Montreal and I need to rest this week.”

Next up for Federer will be the US Open – back permitting.

Bouchard out of Nürnberg before 1st rd

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Tournaments held the week before Grand Slams are always on tenterhooks.

The tournament directors likely cringe every time their cell phones buzz, wondering which of the marquee players they worked so hard to get (and committed so much cash and promotional money to) are going to bail at the last minute. Or sometimes they get a niggle in the previous tournament and don’t want to risk it before a major.

Or, in the case of Genie Bouchard in Nürnberg, a practice-court injury.

The Canadian committed to the tournament she won back in 2014 well beforehand. Bouchard remains a marquee attraction for these events despite her current ranking of No. 56, because of her previous resumé. And she can command a hefty appearance fee.

We’re hearing that the WTA event in Quebec City last September, right after the US Open, paid upwards of $150,000 for the pleasure of her company even though she lost early.

Ankle issue just before a major

The reason for Bouchard’s withdrawal is a right ankle issue. 

NürnbergThe tournament reported it happened last week during practice as the Canadian opted not to play the qualifying in Rome last week. Instead, she arrived early to practice in Nürnberg.

Bouchard was to play No. 2 seed Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan in the first round Tuesday. It had already been scheduled as the marquee match. In fact, it’s still on the schedule on the protennislive.com scoring app as well as the official order of play on the WTA Tour website.

The fact that the tournament announced it after 10 p.m. Nürnberg time Monday probably has something to do with that. (Update: 9 a.m. Paris time – and it’s still up).

Then again, it seems they might have had an idea it was coming. Monday morning, the tournament swapped the promotional banner on its Facebook page for one that didn’t include Bouchard.

Nürnberg

The tournament now has had four retirements/withdrawals. And the first round isn’t even over: Bouchard, Maria Sakkari, Alexandra Cadantu and No. 8 seed Monica Niculescu. Bouchard wasn’t seeded.

The other WTA Tour event this week in Strasbourg saw Mirjana Lucic-Baroni pull out late. No. 1 seed Caroline Wozniacki retired early in the second set of her first-round match against American Shelby Rogers Monday with a back injury.

The inaugural edition of the ATP event in Lyon, France hasn’t lost anyone major yet. But Frenchman Nicolas Mahut needed a breather after winning a tough doubles draw in Rome and cited “fatigue”. Steve Darcis also withdrew.

In Geneva, Viktor Troicki pulled out with a hamstring tear.

More commitments ahead for Bouchard

Bouchard already has made commitments to small events in Mallorca, Spain next month and Luxembourg in October, the week before the WTA Tour Finals in Singapore. That pretty much tells you she’s given up on the notion of making a run for the final eight, in a season in which every single spot is up for grabs.

On the tennis side, you hope the ankle thing is just a precaution with the French Open looming.

Here she is practicing on Friday. She does have a short brace on her right ankle.

And here she is Saturday. 

On the tennis commitment side, it’s a tough call. Bouchard’s track record in pulling out of tournaments like this, ones at which she had made early appearance commitments and was very much the focus of pre-tournament promotion, was very sub-par back in 2014 when she was in big demand.

She didn’t do her reputation any good, although she got much better about that the last two years. Apparently the smaller events are more than willing to continue to take that risk. It’s just bad luck all around.