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Swiss tennis legend Roger Federer could be capable of troubling Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon later this year, if Wednesday’s hard-fought victory over Dan Evans is anything to go by. Federer was making his first on-court appearance in over 13 months but faced little difficulty in recapturing the incredible qualities that have been on show for the duration of his 23-year professional career.
After a torrid 2020 in which the 39-year-old endured two knee operations, subsequently ruling him out of action for the vast majority of the year, he went into Wednesday’s clash with a point to prove as he eyes a return to the top of the world rankings.
The challenge posed by Evans threatened to derail the optimism around Federer’s comeback, and the British No 1 did put up a spirited battle, but was ultimately defeated at the hands of his more experienced counterpart.
Any suggestion that the 20-time Grand Slam champion was going to steamroll to victory was promptly extinguished during the first set, with the veteran failing to break Evans once in the opening stages.
However, his overall performance proved that he has every chance of pulling yet another Wimbledon success out of the bag in four months’ time.
Perhaps the main area under the microscope on Wednesday was his movement and positioning, with the nature of his long-term injury carrying the threat of hindering the Swiss heavyweight’s physical capabilities.
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Despite his recent inactivity, he appeared to be having no trouble in dancing around the court, scarcely finding himself physically unable to answer the questions asked by Evans.
Federer had previously claimed that he was hoping to reach peak fitness in time for Wimbledon, but did not look a million miles away in the Qatar heat, suggesting that his preparations for a return to the Grand Slam circuit are progressing nicely.
He was able to rush to the net when needed in order to play crucial drop shots while also performing well from the baseline.
Federer’s technical ability also remained largely intact, with the decorated star serving excellently as usual.
Both players struggled to get the better of each other without the ball in hand, an indicator of high quality with regards to their respective service games.
Evans turned on the style as he claimed the second set to force a tiebreak, calling his opponent’s hunger and desire to win into question.
It would have been all too easy for Federer to lie down and hide behind the excuse of inactivity after the match, but there was no such indication from the experienced head who fought tooth and nail until all was said and done.
He battled Evans all the way to seal victory and never once looked happy to accept defeat, which is exactly what you would expect from a player of his calibre.
Not many people would cast doubt over the mental strength of Federer but Wednesday’s performance proved that he is still fully focused on returning to his best, with his impressive resilience in the face of recent adversity clearly on show.
Although Federer’s performance was far from perfect, with his decision making letting him down at times, the qualities that have brought so much success over the years were there for all to see.
His ability to move around the court with grace, as well as his impeccable service game and shotmaking, have stayed with him despite the lengthy injury woes that plagued last year’s campaign.
It remains to be seen how he will fare at the All England Club later this year, but if he can continue to work hard and build on each performance in the tournaments between now and then, he will have the likes of Djokovic and Nadal looking nervously over their shoulders.
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