Federer on comeback: “I just feel like the story is not over yet”

  • Matt Trollope

After more than 13 months on the sidelines, Roger Federer this week makes a highly-anticipated return to tennis at the ATP 250 event in Doha.

Federer is seeded second at the tournament and receives a first-round bye, before taking to the court against either Dan Evans or Jeremy Chardy.

Following two knee surgeries in 2020, Federer, who turns 40 this year, will play for the first time since his Australian Open semifinal loss to Novak Djokovic on 30 January 2020.

“I never thought it was going to take this long,” Federer said. “I am very happy to be back playing a tournament again.”

Federer’s comeback has generated plenty of interest in the Doha event, where the Swiss is a three-time champion.

He is one of three top-10 players taking part – Dominic Thiem is the top seed – and will be aiming to hoist the trophy for the first time since 2011. 

Victory would make Federer the oldest ATP title winner in the Open Era. 

“I never thought it was going to take this long. I am very happy to be back playing a tournament again.”
Roger Federer

But he is being very cautious when discussing his expectations.

“At this moment, let’s see how matches go,” said Federer, who has practised with Evans on site in Doha. “It is still (a matter of) building up to being stronger, better, fitter, faster and all that stuff. 

“I know that people will think that the measuring stick will only be titles, trophies, finals and semifinals and I am happy that people think of me that way but, honestly, the expectations are in a completely different place for me.

“I might surprise myself. I actually already have done in practice the past three weeks. I was surprised with how well it actually did go.

“But we know matches are a different animal, so right now I just take it day by day. I am happy I am back on the tour again.”

Federer’s lengthy stint away from the tour was, by his account, bittersweet.

The world No.6 revealed that, after 1,500 matches and 20 years on tour, he welcomed the extended break and the time at home; it is his belief that time away from competing to heal injuries can add to the back-end of a player’s career.

But his second knee surgery – in late May, following a first in February 2020 – left him uncertain about the viability of a successful comeback. “I was down,” he admitted.

“Obviously I couldn’t believe I had to do a second one. This is definitely a moment where you maybe question a little bit more.”

And it is that knee which Federer says will determine his success, and future, in the sport.

He is scheduled to compete in Dubai the week following Doha, but has already withdrawn from the Miami Open.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion said he hopes to be “100 per cent” by Wimbledon, which begins on 28 June and where he is an eight-time winner.

“From then on, the season really starts for me. Everything until then, let’s just see how it goes,” Federer said.

“I know it is on the rare side for an almost 40-year-old to come back after a year being out and I was surprised how long it took, but I took a decision quite early with my team that I wanted to take the time (with) no rush to get back onto the tour. 

“It is important that I am injury-free, pain-free and I can actually enjoy myself out there.

“I would like to get that high of playing against the best players, playing at the biggest tournaments, winning them, hopefully, and being in the conversation.

“I just feel like the story is not over yet.”