‘Good to be back’: Federer returns from year-long lay-off with Doha win

Doha, Qatar: After more than a year out, Roger Federer started his 24th season on tour with a win.

It was far from easy for the former No. 1, though, as he was pushed hard by Dan Evans at the Qatar Open before winning the second-round match 7-6 (10-8), 3-6, 7-5 on Wednesday.

Roger Federer had not played since having knee surgery following last year’s Australian Open.Credit:Getty

It was Federer’s first match in 405 days after having knee surgery following the 2020 Australian Open.

“Feels good to be back,” Federer said in an on-court interview. “I’m happy to be standing here regardless of if I won or lost. But obviously winning feels better.”

Playing for nearly two-and-a-half hours tested the 39-year-old Swiss player’s stamina following his long break. Federer saved a set point at 6-5 down in the first-set tiebreaker and saved two break points at 3-3 in the deciding set before sealing the win with a break of Evans’ serve.

He showed flashes of his usual brilliance along the way, clinching the first set with a perfect cross-court backhand winner as Evans charged into the net. Having failed to convert a match point at 5-4 in the decider, he used another backhand down the line to clinch the win on his second attempt.

The former world No.1 next faces Nikoloz Basilashvili in the quarter-finals of the Qatar Open.Credit:Getty

Federer said he used Evans as a training partner as he prepared for his comeback, playing more than 20 sets against the Briton in the previous weeks.

“It has been a long and tough road for me. I enjoyed it though,” the 20-time grand slam champion said. “It has been a huge challenge of mine in my tennis career and to come back at my age is not something that is very simple.”

Federer will play Nikoloz Basilashvili in the quarter-finals after the Georgian beat Malek Jaziri 6-2, 6-2.

Top seed Dominic Thiem rallied to beat Australian Open semi-finalist Aslan Karatsev 6-7 (7-5), 6-3, 6-2 for a place in the quarters.

Thiem’s next opponent is fifth-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut, who didn’t face a single break point in his 6-4, 6-3 win against Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan.

Third seed Andrey Rublev advanced without taking to the court after his opponent Richard Gasquet withdrew with a leg injury.

Denis Shapovalov won an all-Canadian match against Vasek Pospisil 7-5, 6-4. That set up a quarter-final against Taylor Fritz of the US, who upset sixth seed David Goffin 6-1, 5-7, 7-6 (11-9). Fritz saved a match point at 6-5 down in the decider and twice more in the tie-breaker.

AP

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