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Beyond the Baseline

Roger Federer's Davis Cup criticism lost in translation?

Roger Federer lost his Davis Cup singles rubber and then lost doubles with Stanislas Wawrinka. (EPA)

Roger Federer caused a mini-firestorm after reports surfaced over the weekend that he criticized Stanislas Wawrinka's Davis Cup performance in Switzlerand's first-round loss to the United States. Federer and Wawrinka both lost their singles matches on Friday and teaming up for doubles didn't help either, as Mike Bryan and Mardy Fish beat the Swiss pair in four sets in Fribourg, Switzerland.

According to The Associated Press, Federer said Wawrinka did not play well and failed to put pressure on the Americans with his opening-rubber loss:

Later, speaking in French to Swiss media, Federer appeared less gracious. He claimed not to be too disappointed while pointing a finger at Wawrinka, who slumped back in his chair looking every inch the junior partner in the relationship.

"I played well enough in doubles, but Stanislas not so much," Federer said, adding that Wawrinka "didn't have his best match in singles. It's a shame, because of that defeat we weren't able to put the U.S under pressure."

Some Swiss journalists took issue with AP''s translation of Federer's quotes, claiming that Federer said "pas mal," which translates to "not bad," meaning Federer actually said Wawrinka played "not bad" in the doubles match, an altogether less-negative sentiment.

It sounds like a translation error to me, though I've also been told by a French reporter that Federer's use of "pas mal" in that context was not exactly meant to be a positive assessment of Wawrinka's performance.

But giving Federer the benefit of the doubt doesn't take away from the fact that he seemed more inclined to be critical of Wawrinka's play in singles. Svenja Mastroberardi, a Swiss journalist at the tie, corrected AP''s translation over Twitter but also added that Federer did criticize Wawrinka's singles performance more than once.

https://twitter.com/#!/svenja_sportch/status/168399444004446208

Rene Stauffer, another sportswriter from Switzerland and, incidentally, Federer's biographer, translated Federer's comments, which again are more mild than what the wire service reported.

https://twitter.com/#!/staffsky/status/169046767629897729

Scathing words? Most definitely not. And let's face it, Federer isn't wrong. Wawrinka wasn't at his best against Fish in the opening rubber and he was the weak link in their doubles team, which the Americans didn't hesitate to exploit.

Federer addressed the situation on Monday in advance of the ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament in the Netherlands. “I had to weather the press," Federer told reporters. "(The comments were) taken in the completely wrong way, me blaming Stan. I would never do that."

*****

But just as Gisele Bundchen wasn't wrong last week when she called out the Patriots' receivers for their butterfingers, Federer's comments still made the whole situation unnecessarily uncomfortable. Wawrinka wasn't on site to cheer for his teammates Sunday, opting to stay back at the team hotel citing "exhaustion." I'm not crying "cause and effect" here, but it couldn't have been interesting for Wawrinka to open up the papers to read Federer's words, considering the No. 2 Swiss has been the more loyal Davis Cup soldier.

Will this have any effect on their potential doubles pairing at the London Olympics? I doubt it. Federer, I suspect, doesn't think he's said anything wrong. To the extent there is any confusion, it sounds like he's met with the team to clarify his comments and smooth things over.

Meanwhile, Wawrinka will surely get over his "exhaustion." The chance for Olympic glory again -- the two teamed to win gold at the 2008 Beijing Games -- is enough to soothe all wounds. But it all added a few wrinkles to what was already a very curious weekend for Federer and his Swiss mates.

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