WORLD No2 Roger Federer refused to speak to the media last night after forfeiting the ATP World Tour Finals title in London amid rumours of a bust-up with compatriot Stan Wawrinka.
Six-time champion Federer’s withdrawal ahead of his scheduled showdown with rival Novak Djokovic at the season-ending competition – the first final walkover in the tournament’s 45-year history – gifted the top-seeded Serb his third successive O2 crown.
The 33-year-old secured his place in the final after an entrenched battle with fellow countryman Wawrinka on Saturday that lasted close to three hours, during which Federer saved four match points before prevailing.
The pair are set to join forces this weekend in a bid to secure Switzerland’s first Davis Cup final success against France, although both were said to have remained at the venue until the early hours of Sunday morning amid suggestions of a row.
But after missing a scheduled practice session, it was a back injury which Federer pointed to when he took to the court to explain the granting of only the third walkover of his career to expectant fans.
“Unfortunately, I’m not match fit to play match tonight,” said Federer. “Clearly I wish it wasn’t this way. You try all year to be ready for the ATP World Tour Finals and I didn’t want to end this way. I tried everything I could last night and today – painkillers, rest – until the very end. But I can’t compete at this level with Novak [Djokovic]. In a final like this and at my age, it would be too risky. I hope you understand.”
But the occasion was not a total loss after Britain’s Andy Murray rode to the rescue following a call from ATP executive chairman Chris Kermode at 2pm, with the 27-year-old losing out 8-5 to Djokovic in a professional set exhibition match.
Murray then joined forces with John McEnroe for a doubles clash with Tim Henman and Pat Cash, with Kermode confirming fans who attended the final will be contacted regarding partial refunds.
Djokovic, who finished the year with only eight defeats from 66 matches, became the first player since Ivan Lendl (1985-87) to win three consecutive World Tour Finals titles, with the 27-year-old admitting the unconventional manner of his win still represented success.
He said: “I’m not one of those players that celebrates these wins. But this trophy is the crown for all the achievements of this year.”