Injury forces Federer to withdraw from Rome

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The Independent Online

Roger Federer, the world No 1, has been forced to rest between engagements this week because of inflammation in the tendons of the soles of both feet. The 23-year-old Swiss has found it difficult to balance the health of his body with the demands of tournament commitments. Now he has no choice but to miss the Rome Masters and hope to continue his build-up to the French Open with a defence of the Hamburg Masters next week.

Federer's last match was a defeat by Richard Gasquet, an 18-year-old French qualifier, in the quarter-finals of the Monte Carlo Masters on 15 April. Gasquet, only the second player to beat Federer this year, after Marat Safin at the Australian Open, saved three match points before converting his third chance.

That ended Federer's run of 25 winning matches - it was only his second loss in 53 matches since the Athens Olympic Games last August - and although Gasquet was in inspired form, hitting winners to every part of the court, it was clear that battle fatigue had caught up with Federer.

Last year he won three of the world's major championships - all but the French Open on the clay in Paris - and at the Nasdaq-100 Open in Key Biscayne in March he won his 18th final in a row.

Elsewhere, the former women's world No 1 Justine Henin-Hardenne claimed her second successive clay-court title when she defeated the US Open champion, Svetlana Kuznetsova, 3-6, 6-2, 7-5 to win the Warsaw WTA event yesterday.

The unseeded Belgian, who won the Family Circle Cup in Charleston a fortnight ago, has now won two out of three events since returning from illness and injury at Key Biscayne in March. Her only loss came against Maria Sharapova in the quarter-finals there.

"It's good that I've had a lot of matches. That was the main goal. Now I have a couple of matches on clay, and that gives me a lot of confidence before the French Open," she said. "I still have to work a little bit more on being aggressive. I win, but I think I can still do better, and that's what I have to be focused on.

"It's going to be important to me that I don't get tired like I did in the last few years, so I have to be aggressive so I don't have long rallies like I did today."