Roger Federer has pulled out of the ATP Doha event citing a back injury, according to Fox News. As a result, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is into the championship match at the Qatar Open, where he will face Gael Monfils in an all-French final. Federer, who won the ATP Doha event last season, will now focus on preparing for Melbourne Park.
The Swiss Maestro withdrawing from a match or tournament is so rare that it has to raise a lot of questions regarding his health and his ability to win the 2012 Australian Open. In nearly 1,000 career matches, this is only the second time Federer has pulled out of a tournament.
Currently, Federer is considered the second favorite to win the Aussie. However, his odds are lengthening. Earlier this week, he was priced at +350 (7/2 via Paddy Power) to win the Melbourne slam outright.
Now the current world No. 3's longest odds are +400 (4/1 via Paddy Power) to win outright at Melbourne Park—and I think they will still lengthen.
Federer played Doha under conditions that should not have been conducive to injury: he entered the tournament very well-rested since the season has barely started. Additionally, Federer did not face stiff challenges in the opening rounds of the Doha event.
In a lot of ways, the back injury is out of the blue and it may be further evidence of Federer's age-related decline.
The back injury at ATP Doha begs a simple question: If Federer cannot cruise through a 250-level event without getting injured, then what chance does he have to win the Aussie?
The Doha title only required winning five matches—each of them just best-of-three sets. Winning the Australian Open will require winning seven best-of-five set matches.
If Federer can't complete the 250-level event without tweaking something, then his chances of completing a Grand Slam tournament with a title are very slim.
The result from Doha is a very clear indication that Tsonga and Murray are greater threats for the title in Melbourne than Federer is. While the betting public may be slow to figure that out, in my opinion the on-court results will prove it by the time the last ball is served at Melbourne Park.