Thirteen months – 405 days – since his last competitive tennis match, Roger Federer re-entered the competitive arena again. In his opening-round match against Dan Evans at the Qatar Open on Wednesday, Federer turned back time in more ways than one as he put one step forward in his much-awaited comeback.
The Basel native also won the match 7-6(8), 3-6, 7-5 after two hours and 24 minutes.
Qatar Open: Roger Federer, now 4-0 against Dan Evans
Federer began the proceedings on a smooth note putting himself up on the scoreboard – on serve – 1-0.
As the set progressed, the weaknesses in his game, too, began to show themselves. As near-perfect as his serves were – Federer won 85% of his first-serve points – the 20-time Grand Slam champion’s returns were equally rusty and were the reason for quite a few unforced errors.
The sole break point of the set came on the Swiss’ serve in the eighth game but he saved it just as quickly as it had emerged. In the ensuing tie-break, both players exchanged mini-breaks before Evans propped up his first set point at 6-5 only to see it get squashed.
Two points later, Federer had his first set point but was unable to convert it. The next couple of points saw both players get a chance to see the set out but neither could do so. Finally, Federer made good on his fourth set point to lead in the match.
The first set seemed to revitalise Federer some more. The biggest indicator of this shift in the game was Federer’s footwork in the opening moments of the second set as compared to the first set. Federer got a chance to break Evans in the first game of the set but was unable to do so.
Eventually, it was Federer’s serve that came under pressure – and cracked – in the fourth game of the set. The 39-year-old, however, had a chance to break back in the fifth game but even that opportunity came and went.
Federer didn’t lose any more games in the set but for the entirety of the set – and for the first time in the match – the 13-month break looked like it had taken a toll on the Swiss. The Swiss’ shakiness extended into the beginning of the final set as well as Evans looked to be playing composedly.
The make-or-break game in the set came in the seventh game of the set as Federer was forced to dig deep and save two break points to go up 4-3 in the set. The momentum for the remainder of the match was also decided in that game.
Evans’ serve started to stutter after a long while in the match even as Federer’s keenness in stepping into the court forced Evans to go for broke each time. The tactic was both successful and not-so-successful at the same time but helped Federer to keep himself ahead in the set – and in the match – while piling on the pressure on Evans.
The 30-year-old extricated himself and kept it at bay in the 10th game of the set to save the first match point he faced. However, two games later, he wasn’t able to do much as Federer notched the win off a backhand-down-the-line winner.
In the quarter-finals of the Qatar Open, Roger Federer will play Nikoloz Basilashvili. The Georgian defeated Malek Jaziri 6-2, 6-2 in their round-of-16 match.