Ahead of his return at next week’s Qatar Open in Doha, Roger Federer reflected on his 13-month absence from the sport and shared his excitement to return to the court.
“I just feel like the story is not over yet… 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,” said Federer.
WATCH: Roger Federer hits the practice courts in Doha
A lot has changed for the 20-time Grand Slam champion since his most recent match at the 2020 Australian Open, including two right knee surgeries and global pandemic, but the Swiss never wavered in his ambition to return to the court.
Federer is keen to manage his expectations this week. The 103-time tour-level titlist has been surprised by the level he has already shown in practice, but he is keen to avoid putting any results-driven pressure on himself over the coming months.
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“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.
Since his last appearance, Federer’s Big Three rivalry with Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic has significantly evolved.
Spotted on the @QatarTennis practice courts… 👀 pic.twitter.com/GPb02QI45D
— ATP Tour (@atptour) March 6, 2021
Nadal tied Federer’s record at the top of the Grand Slam titles leaderboard last year at Roland Garros and Djokovic has added two further Australian Open titles to his resume.
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On Monday, the Serbian will also break Federer’s record for the most weeks spent at the top of the rankings.
“What Novak and Rafa have done, as of late, is extraordinary,” said Federer.
“They are not 25 either. They are able to back it up. Novak did it again in Australia and Rafa again did it at Roland Garros.
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“They seem [to be] at their peak which is great for tennis and it is great for the debate. My concern is more [on] my own game, my own health over the record, to be honest.
Perhaps the biggest question mark surrounding Federer’s return will be how he responds to the two right knee surgeries he underwent last year. The 39-year-old has declared himself ‘pain-free’ ahead of his first appearance in Doha since 2012.
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“I do think the knee will dictate how the comeback is going to be, how the results will be, how long I can still keep doing this,” said Federer.
“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.
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“It is important that I am injury-free, pain-free and I can actually enjoy myself out there on Tour.”