Federer makes winning return with three-set win
March 11 2021 01:00 AM
Roger Federer
Federer was welcomed to the centre court of the Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex with a rapturous applause from the restricted but maximum possible crowd

Roger Federer made a spectacular winning return to competitive tennis when the Swiss star battled past frequent practise partner Daniel Evans 7-6 (8), 3-6, 7-5 in a second round clash at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open Wednesday.
Federer was welcomed to the centre court of the Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex with a rapturous applause from the restricted but maximum possible crowd (due to Covid-19 regulations).
The 20-time Grand Slam champion had last played at the 2020 Australian Open, where he had lost to Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals 405 days ago. Following that loss, Federer underwent a double knee surgery and has since admitted that the knee would decide his future course of action even as he targets being 100 percent for Wimbledon.
Wednesday, while there was little separating the two in the first set as the Brit stayed right with the three-time champion through and through, even in the tie-breaker, the world No. 28 held his nerves better when the set point finally came in view.
The next set was the first and only set Evans has been able to take off the 39-year-old in their four ATP Tour encounters so far, and a relentless attack on the three-time champion’s backhand produced results as the Murray River Open champion took the second set 6-3, forcing a decider.
In the third, Evans managed to save the first match point at 5-4 with impressive net play, but had no reply to Federer’s sublime down-the-line backhand winner on the second match point at 6-5.
“It feels good to be back,” Federer said in an on-court interview.
“I am happy to be standing here regardless of if I won or lost, but obviously winning feels better. It was a good match. Dan played a good match too. He has been a wonderful training partner as well. Over the past two weeks, we played over 20 sets and it went on (tonight).
“It has been a long and tough road for me. I enjoyed it though. It has been a huge challenge of mine in my tennis career and to come back at my age is not something that is very simple. I have had a wonderful team around myself that always supported me throughout. That made it much easier and it was worth it because I played a good match today.”
Despite a promising match, Evans considered it as a lost opportunity against Federer. “It's a difficult one. It's just a bit annoying really… play a good match like that and then get nothing for it,” 30-year-old Evans said.
“I didn't think I did too much wrong when I had breakpoints in the third, so it's not… yeah, it's just pretty frustrating. In a few days I can say I'm in a good spot and go in the right direction, but it's a loss at the end of the day and it doesn't matter who it's to. It's tough to take.”
Federer will play Georgia’s Nikoloz Basilashvili, who had little trouble beating Tunisian wildcard Malek Jaziri 6-2, 6-2.
Abysmal first serve at crucial moments, most importantly at the start of the second and the third set, cost Russian wild card Aslan Karatsev dearly against Austrian top seed Dominic Thiem in their second round clash. US Open champion Thiem beat the Australian Open semi-finalist, who became the first player in the Open Era to reach the last four of a Grand Slam on his main draw debut, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-2 in almost a two-hour affair at the centre court.
Karatsev's serve was spot on in the first set and then the tiebreak when he fought back from a 2-5 deficit to win 7-5.
However, Karatsev, who had played the Australian Open qualifiers at the venue besides a few ITF events, started the second set with two double faults, and that seemed to be all that Thiem needed to seize the initiative. Things didn't look up in the third set too, and Thiem had soon booked his spot in the quaarter-finals.
"I was up in the tiebreak and then I lost it, which was not nice, but he helped me a little bit in that first game. I think he was hitting two double faults," Thiem said after the match.
"It's always, after you lost a close set, it's super important to have a good start to the next one. And that's what I had. It was pretty fast, 3-0, and so I was positive again in my mind, and I also loosened up a little bit and started to play better."
Thiem said he expected a “dangerous game” from Karatsev having played with at the junior levels and then even practicing together a couple of times in the past.
“Back then, I think he was a top-20 junior. We played in Roehampton on grass, so I cannot really remember that match, only that he won it,” 27-year-old Thiem said of his opponent, who is one day younger.
“But then I think 2015 or '16 or something like that he was with us in Tenerife for the season, for the preparation to the season, and I also think that he came to Vienna one or two times after that. So I knew him also before the breakthrough in Australia.
“He already had really dangerous and fast shots back then.”
Thiem will meet Spanish fifth seed Roberto Bautista Agut at the last-eight stage.
One break of serve in each set was enough for Bautista Agut to beat Kazakhstan’s Alexander Bublik, this season’s Antalya Open and Singapore Tennis Open finalist, 6-4, 6-3 in 70 minutes.
Defending champion Andrey Rublev, the third seed from Russia, advanced to the Doha quarter-finals without hitting a ball after his opponent, France’s Richard Gasquet, the 2013 Doha titlist, withdrew ahead of their match due to a leg injury.
In the second upset of the tournament, American Taylor Fritz beat Belgian sixth seed David Goffin 6-1, 5-7, 7-6 (9) in a close encounter that last two hours and 35 minutes.
Fritz will play fourth seed Denis Shapovalov, who won an all-Canadian encounter with Vasek Pospisil 7-5, 6-4, in the quarter-finals Thursday.

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