Federer recounts "lingering" back problem, adjustments in training

by: Kamakshi Tandon | March 17, 2014

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Photo by Anita Aguilar

Roger Federer has given a detailed description of the back injuries he suffered last year and the measures he is now taking to avoid more problems.

Federer said it first happened at last year's Indian Wells tournament, in the second round, on a second serve. Despite repeated back problems in the past, he described this one as lasting longer than any previous injury—and, as a result, also shook his confidence in his body.

"It did go away three weeks later, probably, when I was home," he said. "Just kept on lingering, lingering, lingering, and then eventually it went away.

"But, you know, being sore every day... You're scarred a little bit."

"Then I started to train again lightly, you know, as I could, and then eventually I trained I guess normal again."

Federer returned mostly pain-free in Madrid after a seven-week break last spring, but had mixed results.

"Just maybe feeling that training was lacking from the weeks I lost in April," he said. "Just I could feel for a while I was playing the wrong way. Little things crept into my game that shouldn't have and probably wouldn't have had [I] felt better."

After losing in the second round of Wimbledon, Federer adjusted his schedule to add clay-court events in Hamburg and Gstaad.

"And then I got hurt again," he said. "That's when things really went became difficult, because I think the second time I got hurt I had like a back spasm in Hamburg. I should have pulled out of the event."

The problem began during the event when Federer was playing soccer to warm up, though he felt that may have only been a trigger.

"But I just realized my back was really fragile. That's when I put everything in question and really had to rethink my routines," he said. "That's then when we came up with another plan instead of the one we had after April a little bit. We adjusted it again."

That adjustment involved reworking his physical training.

"Just core exercises," he said. "Because I just realized just doing treatment is not going to do it any good. You have to work on it to become stronger. Even though I did a lot of exercises beforehand, I just had to adjust them, you know, maybe do it differently, different speed, different exercises. So I just went through that with Stefan [Vivier], my physio, Pierre [Pagnini], my conditioning coach, doctor, another physio. We just talked about it all and laid it all out on the table what I've been doing and what everybody thinks what I should do from then on.

"Then the problem is it's not a quick fix. It was, let's see how you feel in two weeks, two months, six months. It was a long-term plan, so you're very unsure still if you're going same direction. Because it's not like one day to the next having no pain.

"So I had to, you know, just accept that as well, that you're just going to be in pain, you know, a little bit, like every other player, too."

Recovering from the injury has also had both a physical and mental effect, Federer added.

"I can wake up in the morning without feeling sore. I can go to bed not feeling like, I hope I feel better tomorrow," he said. "I think I'm just playing more freely overall and with more confidence because I can get to more balls without thinking."

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