Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Federer's barking back forces delay

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WIMBLEDON, England -- The Centre Court crowd, buzzing with casual conversation during a changeover, suddenly went silent when the chair umpire uttered words rarely heard at Wimbledon, or anywhere else.

"Ladies and gentlemen," he said, "Mr. Federer is taking an off-the-court medical timeout."

Roger Federer has seldom been slowed by health issues, but he briefly left the court Monday because of a back injury and had spectators wondering whether he would return.

After an eight-minute delay, Federer resumed whacking winners and went on to beat frequent foil Xavier Malisse 7-6 (1), 6-1, 4-6, 6-3. The 16-time Grand Slam champion reached his 33rd consecutive major quarterfinal, extending his Open era record.

On Wednesday he'll play No. 26-seeded Mikhail Youzhny, who edged Denis Istomin 6-3, 5-7, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 7-5.

Federer improved to 10-1 against Malisse. He's 13-0 against Youzhny.

"We know what to expect, both of us," Federer said. "I hope to recover and play a good match against him."

Federer's back began bothering him early in his match. He blamed the cool, windy weather and the lingering effects of an arduous five-set win over Julien Benneteau three days earlier.

Federer's serve lacked its usual velocity, but his play seemed otherwise unaffected by the bothersome back. An hour after the victory, he said he already felt much better.

"Honestly I'm not too worried," he said. "I've had bad backs over the years. They go as quick as they came. But of course I have to keep an eye on it now. Two good nights' sleeps, and I'll be 100 per cent on Wednesday."

While the six-time Wimbledon champion has undoubtedly felt a back twinge or other discomfort on occasion, he has also played in 51 consecutive Grand Slam tournaments, a testament to his durability. It's unusual to see him require attention from a trainer, but that was the case midway through the first set.

He sat in a changeover chair, leading but ailing, when the trainer came out to check on him. After a brief conversation, they left the court together.

"I felt the back going the beginning of the first set," Federer said. "I asked for the trainer to come out to just talk about it. I decided to have treatment inside."

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 3, 2012 C7

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