There will be no more than 405 days without Roger Federer on the circuit. Absent from the semi-final defeat at the Australian Open against Djokovic, the Swiss champion underwent a minor knee arthroscopy operation, missed the rest of 2020 - before and after the lockdown - and also renounced the complicated Australian Open 2021.
An announcement on the tournament chosen for the return was expected, and it came during an interview with SRF, the German-speaking Swiss radio and television company. “In the last few months I have done a lot of rehabilitation.
I thought for a long time about when and where to return. Due to the knee injury, Australia was a bit too early; I was sorry because it is one of the places I like to play the most “. So the choice fell on Doha: "I wanted to return to a smaller tournament, where the 'stress' is a little less"
The start of the Qatari tournament is set for March 8, so between 9 and 10 the debut in his twenty-fourth season as a professional should materialize - the debut took place in 1998. Federer has played seven times in the Doha tournament, lifting the trophy three times (2005, 2006 and 2011).
The basic assumption is that now there is no desire, or 'morbidity' as Roger himself says, to return to the circuit later. It will do so on his terms. If the knee gives him a hand, I will try to play on clay again. And then of course Halle, Wimbledon, the Olympics and the US Open.
I still want to celebrate a great victory, which is why I am ready to face a long and difficult path."
Roger Federer on his clay return
After Doha there is a chance Roger Federer will stay in the Middle East to play in the ATP 500 in Dubai, which begins on March 15.
Then there’s the first ATP Masters event of the season in Miami on March 24. He said: "Depending on how things go in Doha, I'll play another tournament. Otherwise I'll go back to an additional training block with tennis and fitness, and then I'll try to play on clay again.
The decision to return to clay is somewhat surprising given Federer has only played on the surface for one of the last four years. Matches on clay also tend to be more physical and longer, not necessarily what 39-year-old Federer is looking for at this stage of his career.
And it’s clear from his comments that this comeback is going to be led by his body. He says he does not want to “pathologically stay on the tour” to the detriment of his health and future activities with his wife Mirka and their four children.
"I won't play tournaments just because. If the body doesn’t work, I'll stop," he said. "I want to be able to go skiing with the children and with Mirka. Or go hiking, play basketball or start ice hockey - I still have so many dreams. For that I need a good body and I don’t want to hit it against the wall."