Last night Roger Federer defeated Stan Wawrinka saving four match points. His fans were ecstatic and making up new words to incorporate his name. It's about 1:20 in the afternoon here on the east coast of the United States and fans who paid two hundred pounds or so to see the best of the ATP play a final have been told that it will take 48 hours for the LTA to decide if they get refunds. I hate to be the one to break it to them but since tennis is being played and they're watching they won't get refunds. That's how the USTA would play it.
I watched that match last night. At no time did I see any indication that Federer was having any physical issues. Someone on Twitter said they saw he didn't bend his knees at some point in the match but if that happened I didn't see it. Neither did anyone else including the comms on TennisTV, considered the best in the business.
The drama started when Federer didn't show up for his practice scheduled at 2:30p US time. A British journalist, Barry Flatman, of the Sunday Times tweeted the tennis equivalent of "Houston we have a problem" and said the final between Federer and Novak Djokovic would not take place. By the time he tweeted that the Tennis Twitter meltdown had begun. Rumors saying Nick Kyrgios would play Djokovic circulated. Some wondered why David Ferrer and Feliciano Lopez weren't tapped to play. In the end Andy Murray, who was still in town to attend his friends wedding next week, was called on by Chris Kermode to play a pro set with Djokovic and then a doubles exho with John McEnroe against another team that included Tim Henman.
Mr. Flatman just tweeted the following:
Barry Flatman @Barry_FlatmanST · 5m 5 minutes ago
John McEnroe has now made it public: "Something went on in the locker room between Fed and Wawrinka & it extended long into the night."
It was reported that Wawrinka said something to Mirka Federer during the match last night. Inquiring minds and all that.
Since this is an ongoing story I'll stop here. I will ask this: If it was another player withdrawing from a year end final, and god forbid it was a WTA player, would tennis media be so sanguine?
This morning there are two articles in the British press, both by respected sportswriters, on what exactly happened during that crucial patch in the third set.
Here is what the Daily Mail's Mike Dickson reports happened:
According to several eyewitnesses, a vociferous argument developed between the pair in the backstage area. Tour officials decided that the best thing was to push them alone into a private room that had been converted into a gym area, as there is no communal locker room at the arena.
While the dispute is not believed to have become physical, a heated ten-minute row ensued in which both aired their grievances against the other.
Among Wawrinka's complaints is that Federer's wife Mirka made audible comments from his supporters' box – which unlike in many stadiums are right at ground level – questioning in French whether he would have the guts to close the match out.
In what had been an unusually feisty and high quality semi-final Wawrinka had four match points and served for the match at 5-4. According to French television, it picked him up saying 'She did the same thing at Wimbledon.'
Simon Briggs of the more restrained and reliable Telegraph posted the following:
Rumours of a bust-up between Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals grew more credible today as well-placed sources attested that the two men found themselves “thrashing out their differences” in the O2 Arena’s gym after Saturday’s semi-final.
Furthermore, the common thread to all the accounts of a hot-tempered match comes back to the role of Federer’s wife Mirka. The Telegraph understands that Mirka’s intense and even provocative support for her husband - which peaked just before Wawrinka served for the match at 5-4 in the third set - caused Wawrinka to complain about her behaviour during the match.
In those late stages, Mirka is understood to have directly challenged Wawrinka, accusing him of whingeing. Wawrinka wasted four match points - three of them in that critical service game at 5-4 - before Federer finally came through by a 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (6) scoreline.
When he came into the interview room, some time after the match, Wawrinka was asked: “At some point late in the third you seemed upset with someone speaking before points. Can you explain what happened there?” His response was cryptic: “Not much. Nothing special. Tense match. It's never easy.”
New information has now come to light about the aftermath of the match, when Federer and Wawrinka were encouraged by senior tennis figures to put the issue to bed at once. The two men conducted a heated 10-minute debate in the O2 Arena’s gym, in which Federer was understood to be the more assertive party.
Randy Burgess, a long and valued commentator on this blog points out that there are a couple of people who mentioned Federer wincing and not bending his knees late in the match. I was watching the match and didn't see it. I consider the reports of it happening valid though and while I didn't see it happen believe those who say they did.
Tennis journalists seem to have gone silent and when they do speak still act as though the incident and the fall out are rumors despite the two articles referenced above. I understand fans not wanting to believe it happened but journalists are supposed to be non biased and report the facts.
If there are anymore updates to the story I'll create a separate post.