Doha, Mar 10 (efe-epa).- Swiss great Roger Federer made a successful return to competitive tennis after a 405-day absence and two surgeries, edging Daniel Evans 7-6 (10-8), 3-6, 7-5 here Wednesday in the round of 16 of the Qatar Open.
Federer, who was playing his first tournament match since losing to Serbian superstar Novak Djokovic in the semifinals of the 2020 Australian Open, needed two hours and 24 minutes to finish off the narrow victory.
“It feels good to be back,” the sixth-ranked Swiss, who underwent two knee surgeries last year, said afterward. “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),” he was quoted as saying in an on-court interview on the ATP Tour’s website.
The 39-year-old struggled on return against the diminutive world No. 28 in the first set, which was played in front of a reduced crowd due to coronavirus protocols.
But he saved a set point at 5-6 in the tiebreaker before going on to clinch the opener with a backhand crosscourt passing shot winner.
Evans rebounded in the second set, however, taking advantage of his rusty opponent’s backhand errors to earn a service break in the fourth game and eventually force a decider.
Federer struggled for consistency in the third set, but his British rival was unable to capitalize on his opportunities, including two break points in the seventh game.
The Swiss great earned a match point on Evans’ serve in the 10th game, but the Briton managed to stay alive with a surprise serve-and-volley play.
Federer made no mistake though on his next opportunity, sealing the victory two games later with a backhand down-the-line winner on match point.
Next up for the 20-time Grand Slam champion in the quarterfinals of this hard-court event will be 42nd-ranked Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili, who routed Tunisian wildcard Malek Jaziri 6-2, 6-2 in the round of 16. EFE-EPA