The way things have been going lately, even the ‘unflappable’ Roger Federer would be excused for letting loose a swear word or two.

The 34-year-old former World No. 1 was forced to pull out of the Madrid Open on Monday, after a back problem arose during practice.

At third place in the world rankings right now behind Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, Federer has played in only three tournaments so far this year – the Australian Open, and events at Brisbane and Monte Carlo.

A knee surgery in February forced him to withdraw from several ATP tournaments. Federer expressed hopes at a news conference that he would be playing in the clay-court Italian Open in Rome, which starts on May 8. Following that of course, is the much-anticipated French Open, one of the highlights of the tennis calendar.

The 17-time Grand Slam winner said that instead of going into the Madrid Open without being 100% fit, he’d rather “play it safe, rest now and get ready for Rome”.

Federer previously won the title at Madrid in 2012, and the withdrawal was obviously a disappointment for him. Incidentally, this is the second withdrawal of a major player from the tournament as earlier, Serena Williams also pulled out following a bout of flu.

Federer fans are hoping he’ll be back in action soon, treating them to some first class action on the clay courts of Rome and Paris before advancing to the grass at Wimbledon this summer.