Roger Federer recalls: ‘Winning the opening set came as a surprise’

Roger Federer has played only 19 matches since the start of the 2020 season, struggling with a knee injury that forced the Swiss to undergo three surgeries. Federer was the Australian Open semi-finalist in January 2020 before taking a break to undergo surgery in February before another in May. Returning to the practice court in the season’s closing stages and working hard on his game, Federer needed a couple of months to find the desired level and enter the competition again, signing to play the ATP 250 event in Doha in March. Competing for the first time in 405 days, Federer toppled Daniel Evans 7-6, 3-6, 7-5 in the second round for a winning return and a massive boost of confidence. Roger later admitted that he was scared about his level in the opening set, especially after such a long break.

Roger Federer made a winning return in Doha in March, beating Evans in three sets.

Despite some expected ups and downs, Federer prevailed after two hours and 24 minutes to reach the quarter-final, where he would squander a match point versus Nikoloz Basilashvili. Federer and Evans had trained in Dubai ahead of Doha, playing 20 practice sets and learning a lot about each other’s game, which was evident on the court. Both players saved three out of four break chances, and Federer won four points more to prevail with a late break in the decider, his only in the entire match! Roger was a bit rusty, struggling from his backhand wing but still doing enough to prevail and advance into the last eight. To stay competitive, Federer saved a break chance at 4-4 in the opening set and came back from 4-2 down in the tie break. The Swiss saved a set point at 5-6 with a forehand crosscourt winner and prevailed 10-8 after a beautiful backhand crosscourt winner. 

“When you come back from an injury, you’re in a different place than everyone else. I was happy that the knee did not feel any different from hard to clay, and I expect the same in the switch from clay to grass. Going to Doha, I was particularly worried about the level and the first set I played with Daniel Evans; I won it, and I surprised myself a little,” Roger Federer said.