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Roger Federer “incredibly happy” after triumphant return

The 20-times Grand Slam champion was delighted with his first outing after 13 months off the Tour

A triumphant Roger Federer said he was “incredibly happy” with his performance after he returned to action with victory on Wednesday in his first match in more than a year.

The 39-year-old Swiss, who had two knee operations in 2020 and last played at the Australian Open 13 months ago, beat Britain’s Dan Evans 7-6 (8), 3-6, 7-5 in the second round of the Qatar ExxonMobil Open.

“Overall I’m really happy, very pleased,” said Federer of a high-quality match against the world No 28, who had been Federer’s practice partner in the past two weeks as he built up to his return.

“There are a lot of things I can still improve on, but overall I’m incredibly happy how I played. I said it before the tournament, you know, regardless of the outcome, if I lose 6-2, 6-2, I’m equally happy than sitting here 7-5 in the third, really it is, because it’s been over 400 days I haven’t been on a tennis court, so it’s been a long time.”

Federer took the first set on the tiebreak, on his third set point, but Evans hit back well to take the second only for the 20-times Grand Slam champion to up his game at the end of the decider to take victory.

Federer said he had been pleased with the way he played his best when he needed to.

“I was very happy with how I was able to handle the tough moments,” he said. “I didn’t feel like my game started to wobble the more important the points got. I think I was able to play how I wanted to play, so I think that’s always a great sign and a great feeling to have.

“Because especially just coming out of practice, you know, and in practice it doesn’t matter if you miss a backhand down the line being down breakpoint. But here it matters a lot. So I think not serving any double faults in my first match back over two hours and 20 minutes, I think that’s a sign that, you know, the knee is doing really well on the serve, which I think is crucial.”

Federer admitted he was tired towards the end of the match but found the energy to take the attack to Evans, who won his first ATP title in Melbourne in January.

“I realised that I had to come forward more and, you know, as the match went on longer, I was able to produce that and really come to the net more and take chances up there,” he said.

“That obviously stresses the body more, because you’re trying to make those plays instead of just staying back and rallying, which can be sometimes a little bit easier in my mind, so which I was really happy about, was that I was really explosive, actually, even though of course I was going in swings of being tired again and then feeling better again.

“But overall I must say I’m really pleased. It was a good performance against a great player. It felt great to be back on a match court.”

Federer said his knee felt good and that he would not have to do any extra treatment between matches.

“You’re talking to an old-school guy,” he said. “I have done one ice bath (in his life) and I didn’t like it. So I’m not going to do that again.

“I don’t just take painkillers for fun. I only take them when I really have to. Don’t feel like that’s the case tonight. I haven’t taken painkillers probably in, whatever, nine months, I guess, ever since the surgery was over. So from that standpoint, I’m really healthy.

“So just have to grab some food. I’m going to stretch or take a shower first because we’re not allowed to shower on-site, and then I’m going to stretch and take a massage and sleep in and then warm up properly tomorrow. Very simple.”

Federer will play Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia in the quarter-finals.

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