Just two days after pulling out of the last match of the World Tour Finals in London, Roger Federer did not train in Lille on Tuesday ahead of the Davis Cup final — claiming in a news conference that his ‘back wasn’t good enough for practice yet’. While this raised severe doubt over the 17-time Grand Slam winner’s participation in the France-Switzerland tie beginning Friday, it wasn’t close to being the big talking point of the day.
His supposed rift with Swiss team-mate and opponent in the semi-finals in London, Stanislas Wawrinka, was. And to make things even more interesting, for both the fans and the media, that rift is said to have been caused by Wawrinka’s on-court duel of words with Federer’s wife, Mirka.
According to the Daily Mail, Federer and Wawrinka are said to have ‘had a furious 10-minute row in a private room backstage at the O2 Arena after their semifinal match’, one that was a tense affair on the court as well with Federer narrowly clinching the nailbiter 7-6 in the third and final set. But according to two videos uploaded by the British tabloid, the ‘furious 10-minute row’ had little to do with the match and almost everything to do with a heated exchange between Mrs Federer and Wawrinka in the third set.
In the first video, taped at 5-all and deuce in the third set, Wawrinka is seen pulling away from his receiving stance even as Federer gets into his service motion. Wawrinka, the reigning Australian Open champion, is then seen pointing his racquet in the direction of what is believed to be Federer’s box before saying: “Not just before the serve.”
The audio then catches a woman’s voice (allegedly Mirka) heckling Wawrinka, calling him a ‘cry baby’ in response. To which Wawrinka looks at both Federer and chair-umpire Cedric Mourier and asks: “You hear what she say?” As Wawrinka begins walking in the direction of the box, the camera pans towards Mourier, who pleads “No Stan, no” to the agitated Swiss. It seems to do the trick as Wawrinka returns to the court and takes stance, but not without staring one last time to his right.
In a supplementary second video uploaded on the Daily Mail website, Wawrinka is seen complaining in French to the umpire during an earlier change-over. The translated subtitles say: “She did the same at Wimbledon. Each time I’m on her side she yells before every time I serve. It’s intolerable.”
While Federer was in damage-control mode on Tuesday, posting a picture of him and the team, including Wawrinka, on Twitter, the media didn’t bite, asking him details about the rift during the press conference. “There’re no hard feelings whatsoever,” said Federer. “We are friends, not enemies, but it (the backstage fight) was maybe one of those heat-of-the-moment situations.
“We’re having a good time here. He (Wawrinka) had a moment, a situation, but everyone has done a nice job of making it really big.”
By ‘everyone’, Federer meant the media and umpire Mourier, who had confirmed in an interview with 20 Minutes that it was indeed Mirka who had been heckling Wawrinka. He said: “The umpire is not allowed to do an interview in the first place — whether he mentions my wife’s name or not, it doesn’t matter.”