Following that thrilling US Open 2011 loss to Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer was the player to beat in the rest of the season, rattling off 17 straight victories and conquering Basel, Paris and the ATP Finals to finish the year on a high note.
Roger kicked off the 2012 season campaign in Doha as the defending champion and the favorite to claim another title and extend his streak. In the opening round, Roger dispatched Nikolay Davydenko 6-2, 6-2 in 54 minutes, losing nine points on serve and never facing a break point.
Federer proved to be too tough to handle for the Russian, winning half of the return points and controlling the scoreboard all the time with four breaks that quickly sent him over the finish line. In the second round, Federer needed just over an hour to dismiss Grega Zemlja 6-2, 6-3, repelling both break opportunities given to the opponent and stealing rival's serve three times to set the quarter-final clash against Andreas Seppi.
Things looked much different against the Italian, though, with Roger prevailing 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 after playing on a much lower level than in the opening two matches. Both players created nine break chances and Roger emerged at the top with an extra break in the third set, feeling the pain in his back and deciding to withdraw before the semi-final clash against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga whom he beat in the final of Paris and the ATP Finals last November.
Federer has never retired during the match in his career and this was only the second time he had given a walkover, skipping the quarter-final clash against James Blake in Paris four years earlier, also with a back injury.
"I've played through two matches in pain and don't think it's the right thing to risk anything more now; it's the only right decision to make," Federer said. "I've just been trying to manage the situation, really; back spasms happen and sometimes you can contain them with massage and painkillers.
I don't want to drive myself crazy with more painkillers, and I need to do what's right to get it better. It's only the second time I have pulled out from a tournament, and I have never pulled out during a match.
It's a sad moment for me, the tournament, and the fans, but health comes first. I have had bad backs on the past but this is not very good; otherwise, I would be playing. I feel that without play and with the right treatment, I will get through it in the next few days; that's my personal opinion right now.
Of course, I have a long journey in front of me going to Australia but I hope maybe midweek next week I should be a hundred percent again. Still, that's just guessing."