405 Days Later – Federer Returns To Action In Doha

Roger Federer (photo: QTF)

DOHA/STARNBERG, March 10, 2021

After a 13-month lay-off, Roger Federer has returned to the international tennis circuit. The 39-year-old Swiss maestro defeated Dan Evans in Wednesday’s second-round match of the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha 7-6(8), 3-6, 7-5.

Federer was solid on his serve, fired 13 aces and won four points more than his opponent to finish the encounter with a backhand winner down the line after two hours and 24 minutes.

“It feels good to be back, I am happy to be standing here regardless of whether I won or lost but obviously winning feels better,” said Federer, a three-time champion in Doha, during his on-court interview.

Competing for the first time since undergoing two right knee surgeries last year, Federer extended his unbeaten head-to-head record against Evans to 4-0.

“It was a good match and Dan played a good match, he has been a wonderful training partner with me over the last two weeks – we have played more than 20 sets so it went on and on and it was great fun.

“I was more focused on being tired that winning the point so I felt if I was going to go out I am going to go out swinging but I am incredibly happy I played a really good match, served really well and nice to finish with a backhand down the line on a match point.

“It’s been a long and tough road, but I have enjoyed it, it has been a huge challenge at my age but I have a wonderful team around me that have supported me throughout and it was worth it.”

Up next for Federer will be Nikoloz Bashilashvili of Georgia, who eased past Tunisian wild card entry Malek Jaziri 6-2, 6-2 in 75 minutes. The Basel native won the only previous meeting between the two in the opening round of the 2016 Australian Open in three sets.

Thiem overcomes Karatsev

Earlier in the day, top seed Dominic Thiem opened his title bid with a hard-fought 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-2 win over Russian wild card entry Aslan Karatsevwho became one of the biggest stories of the 2021 Australian Open when he reached the semi-finals on his Grand Slam debut.

Thiem saved both break points he faced and capitalized on three of his own five break-point chances to secure victory in one hour and 56 minutes.

“We played in juniors 10 or 11 years ago, and we also practiced in Vienna, so he wasn’t completely new to me,” said Thiem, who competed in his first match since his fourth round exit in Melbourne. “But he has raised his level so much in the past six months, especially last month in Australia.

“I was up in the tie-break and then I lost it, which was not nice, but he helped me a little bit in that first game of the second set. I think he hit two double faults. After you lose a close set, it’s super important to have a good start in the next one. And that’s what I had. It was pretty fast, 3-0, and so I was positive again in my mind. I also loosened up a little bit and started to play better.”

Thiem will next take on 2019 champion Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain. The tournament’s No. 5 seed needed one break of serve in each set to edge out Alexander Bublik from Kazakhstan 6-4, 6-3 in one hour and 10 minutes.

In other action, Denis Shapovalov emerged victorious from the all-Canadian affair with Vasek Pospisil 7-5, 6-4. The No. 4 seed sent down seven aces and won 80 per cent of his first-service points to secure victory in one hour and 44 minutes. Shapovalov will next take on US-American Taylor Fritz. who saved three match points in the final set to battle past No. 6 seed and recent Open Sud de France champion David Goffin of Belgium 6-1, 5-7, 7-6(9) after two hours and 35 minutes.