Staying away from the court for over 13 months, Roger Federer returned to action in Doha. 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 deciding on the clay schedule, planning to enter a couple of tournaments ahead of the beloved grass swing. Marion Bartoli believes that Roger will use his matches on clay to improve physical fitness and get his muscles back to work.
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 in the opener and secured three breaks in sets two and three that carried him over the finish line.
Nikoloz found his forehand in the second set to take it 6-1 and gather momentum ahead of the decider, where he grabbed a late break after saving a match point to prevail and show Roger the exit door.
Roger Federer hasn't played on clay since Roland Garros 2019.
Federer's last tournaments on clay came in 2019, returning to the slowest surface for the first time since 2016.
Dominic Thiem defeated him in Madrid before a walkover to Stefanos Tsitsipas in Rome. Finding his form at Roland Garros, Roger reached the semi-final and set the clash against his old rival Rafael Nadal. The Spaniard scored a 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 triumph in Roger's last match on clay.
"Roger has already lost the record for most weeks as world no. 1 to Novak Djokovic, and I don't think he wants to lose all of his records. Still, I don't think he wants to put his body on the line for just one record either.
He has accomplished enough. Roger has hardly ever made a wrong decision in his career. Living here in Dubai, I know, it's really hot; if he can train outside for a month, he's going to be good in the rest of the season.
On clay, you need physical fitness to play long matches. Clay will be the perfect way for him to get his muscles back to work. His time there will help him in match situations," Marion Bartoli said.