Roger Federer is enduring one of the least successful stretches of his career this summer. (Joern Pollex/Getty Images)
MASON, Ohio -- Roger Federer's recent scheduling reshuffle, which saw him play two small clay court tournaments immediately after his shocking defeat to Sergiy Stakhovsky in the second round of Wimbledon didn't boost his confidence the way he had hoped.
Speaking to reporters on Saturday, before the start of the Western & Southern Open, Federer said his quarterfinal loss to 116th-ranked Federico Delbonis in Hamburg followed by his second round exit to 55th-ranked Daniel Brands was "disappointing".
"Not great, to be honest," Federer said, when asked to assess his last month. "I was ready to get over the Wimbledon loss as quick as I could, which I did. Took a short break and started practicing extremely hard and things were great. Tested rackets, you know, was ready to go to Hamburg and Gstaad, and play tournaments I really enjoyed playing. But I couldn't enjoy them in the end then because I just had too many problems with my back, with my body."
Federer began to feel back pain in Hamburg and though he was hampered by the injury he was relieved it didn't get worse in Gstaad.
"I still was playing OK," he said. "It wasn't like I couldn't play at all. So that was the frustrating part because I couldn't play proper tennis. Couldn't get into the right routines, play the right shots at the right time because you start compromising a bit. So for me it was a disappointing last two weeks there, where clearly I lost some time."
After his early loss in Gstaad, Federer took a few days away from the practice court to focus on strengthening his back.
"What I did was basically start to work on my back a lot and my strengthening and did that for many days in a row until I felt good enough again to go on the tennis court. But basically I started working out the following day already."
Federer withdrew from the Rogers Cup in Montreal, Canada in order to give himself more time to train and prepare for his title defense next week in Cincinnati, where he is a five-time champion. Still practicing and playing with his new 98-square inch Wilson prototype racket, he says his back injury didn't give him a real opportunity to get a feel for the racket and he'll continue to work with it.
"Pulling out of Montreal wasn't something I wanted to do but it gave me more time to work hard and come here really well prepared. So that's sort of two tougher moments I had to get over, the Wimbledon loss and then the Hamburg and Gstaad just not feeling well moment. But now I'm fit again and I'm mentally motivated, which is very important in this part of the year right now."
The biggest concern for Federer going forward is how his body holds up over the rest of the season. He turned 32 this week and says his body, which has been relatively injury-free throughout his career, is beginning to feel it.
"Clearly I've played a lot of matches, I've played a very long time," he said. "So I feel I have to do more to get myself ready today than I ever have. When I was younger, a teenager for instance, I would jump up and down for two minutes and then go 'OK, here we go' for a five set match. Today I take half an hour. I mean, it's no problem but that can also wear you out eventually, to do all the little things to be somewhat ready. It's like a car, you sort of need to warm it up. For me that's a bit of a change, but it sort of happens gradually, to be honest."