Staying away from the court for over 13 months, Roger Federer returned to action in Doha last week. The Swiss defeated Daniel Evans in his first match since January 30, 2020, to reach the quarters, where he wasted a match point against Nikoloz Basilashvili to hit the exit door.
Federer will take a couple of weeks off before making his next steps, planning to compete on clay this spring but still not knowing at which tournaments. Roger's former teammate and friend Marc Rosset believes that he should play on clay ahead of the grass swing and build his game's essential elements.
Rosset is sure that Federer can't win Wimbledon without facing the rivals from the top and that it should be better to meet them on clay first and test his current skills against the most formidable opponents. In Doha, Federer suffered a 3-6, 6-1, 7-5 defeat in an hour and 49 minutes to an eventual champion Basilashvili.
The Georgian got broken once and secured three breaks in sets two and three that carried him over the top, sending Roger out in his comeback tournament. Nikoloz found his forehand in the second set to take it 6-1 and gather momentum ahead of the decider.
The returners barely lost a couple of points in the third set's opening five games, and Nikoloz held at love to level the score at 3-3. The Georgian earned a break chance in game seven after forcing Federer's error, denied by a crafty slice from the Swiss, who saved two more break chances and closed the game with a volley winner for a massive hold.
Marc Rosset backs Roger Federer to play on clay this spring.
Nikoloz held at love in game eight before Roger fired four quick serves to grab another game and open a 5-4 gap. With no room for errors, Basilashvili saved a match point in game ten to lock the result at 5-5 and increase the drama.
Delivering strong returns, Nikoloz broke Roger at 15 in game 11 and sealed the deal with a backhand crosscourt winner a few minutes later. "Federer saw that maybe he lacked a bit of physical preparation, so I think it's going to be interesting for him to play as many matches as possible on clay.
It will allow him to do a little basic work and get a bit of a physical fund. Wimbledon is hardly won by serving and volleying now; you have to do that from the baseline. In 2018, Roger didn't play on clay, and he lost to Kevin Anderson at Wimbledon.
So if he also wants to win Wimbledon, he will necessarily have to beat Djokovic, Nadal or other top-10 rivals, and to meet them, he will have to play these players in the Masters 1000 on clay or at Roland Garros," Marc Rosset said.