The eagerly awaited return of Roger Federer, who hasn’t played a competitive match since his 2020 Australian Open semi-final loss to Novak Djokovic due to a right knee injury, is scheduled for this week’s Qatar Exxonmobil Open in Doha, Qatar
I know it’s on the rare side for a 40-year-old to come back after a year out, The important thing is I’m pain free and injury free Roger Federer
In the interim, the Swiss world number 5, has undergone two surgical procedures and more latterly, been getting himself fit enough to deal with the rigours of the tennis tour.
The Swiss icon said retirement was never really an option during his battle with injury, insisting on the eve of the event that the pain was “completely under control” and acknowledged that it was unusual for a player of his age to return after injury.
“I know it’s on the rare side for a 40-year-old to come back after a year out,” he said at a media briefing in the Qatari capital Doha.
“The important thing is I’m pain free and injury free.
“I’m very happy to be back playing a tournament — I never thought it was going to take this long.”
On his rivalry with Rafael Nadal and Djokovic, who this week overtakes his record of 310 weeks as world number one in men’s tennis, Federer said “it’s a great debate to have”.
“I think what Novak and Rafa have done of late is extraordinary – they’re not 25 either,” he said with a smile.
“Novak did it in Australia, Rafa did it at The French — they seem at their peak which is great for tennis and for the debate.
“My concern is my own health, my own game (more) than the record.
“The guys are unreal, I hope they keep on going and can do everything they possibly want — you want to leave the game with no regrets, and in that respect we all sleep very well at night.”
Federer, a 20-time Grand Slam title winner, said that while “expectations are really low” for his campaign in Qatar, he hoped to surprise himself.
“Obviously I’m confident otherwise I wouldn’t put myself in this situation,” he said ahead of his first fixture which will be on either Tuesday or Wednesday against either Frenchman Jeremy Chardy or Britain’s Dan Evans with the Rotterdam semi-finalist Borna Coric of Croatia or Aussie John Millman potentially his quarter-final opponents.
“In a vision I see myself with the trophy,” he added laughing.
And Goran Ivanisevic believes that could be the case as he shouldn’t be underrated, a view he expressed when interviewed by Tennis Majors.
“I have played against Federer and I have coached against Federer. One thing I have learned is that you should never write him off, so I won’t do it now,” he said.
“He is always dangerous, particularly at Wimbledon and to a lesser extent at the US Open. If he is playing, that means that he is ready and when he is ready, he is an extremely difficult opponent to have.”
Fitness of course will be the key as trainer Pierre Paganini recently told Tages-Anzeiger that he would only have decided to return to the Tour knowing he can play well but admits it could be a long road ahead for the star.
“It’s a bit early to answer this question,” he replied when asked about Federer’s title chances.
“The opponents are strong, tennis is getting stronger. And he made one decisive contribution to it. So it is almost his fault that it is so.
“He trains practically normally. If you could see him, you would say: he is not injured, everything is fine.”
Andy Murray can relate to Federer’s current situation and backs him to the full to play “top-level tennis” on his return reckoning there are some similarities between himself and his old foe.
“I just want to get out and compete and just enjoy doing what I am doing,” Murray said, as per the Metro. “I imagine Roger would be the same.
“I am sure he has been training hard and is excited to get back out there and compete.
“I am sure in time, providing that his body is good, that he will play top-level tennis again because he is that good.
“Even if there is a slight drop-off physically for him, I would back his skill against most players. I am sure he will be fine.”
All eyes will be focused on him when a lot of the questions should be answered.