Federer plays down Masters Cup title chance

SHANGHAI: World number one Roger Federer has cast doubts on his capability to successfully defend his Masters Cup title in Shanghai due to an ankle injury sustained last month. 

“To be honest, I don't know my chances of winning the tournament here because of my foot,” the Shanghai Daily on Thursday quoted Federer, in Shanghai for the season-ending tournament beginning on Sunday, as saying. 

“Definitely, I'm here trying to defend my title but health comes before success. So now I just hope I can play the opening game without any pain.” 

The Swiss superstar sustained the injury while practising four weeks ago and was forced to skip the Madrid and Paris Masters as well as the Basel tournament last week. 

Despite playing down his chances, Federer's recovery has been fairly quick, which could spell bad news for his rivals in the eight-man field at the US$4.45mil tournament at the brand new Qi Zhong Stadium. 

Injuries have forced the withdrawal of some of the biggest names in Shanghai, featuring the top eight players for the season. 

World number three Andy Roddick called an early end to his 2005 season due to back pain, while Russia's Marat Safin was forced to pull out of the Shanghai tournament with a nagging knee injury. 

Australia's fourth-ranked Lleyton Hewitt, winner here in 2002, also withdrew because his wife is expected to give birth to their first child in the next two weeks. 

Roddick's withdrawal allowed David Nalbandian to join the Shanghai field, becoming the third player from Argentina in the line-up alongside compatriots Gaston Gaudio and Guillermo Coria, who replaced Safin. 

Gaudio, who replaced Hewitt, joins teenage star Rafael Nadal of Spain, 35-year-old American Andre Agassi and Russian Nikolai Davydenko in the Gold group. 

Federer, Coria, Nalbandian and Croat Ivan Ljubicic are in the Red Group.  

The top two finishers in each group qualify for the semi-finals. – AFP 

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