ATP 250DohaRoger Federer

Basilashvili Halts Federer Comeback at Qatar Open

The Swiss succumbed in three sets after feeling the effects of yesterday's three-set match.

Nikoloz Basilashvili is through to the semi-finals at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha after recovering from a set down to defeat the three-time champion, Roger Federer.

The Swiss, who recorded his first victory in 405 days against Dan Evans yesterday, was halted by a combination of heavy legs and hard-hitting from the world number forty-two. And despite holding a match point at 5-4 in the third, he went down 3-6, 6-1, 7-5 in 1 hour and 50 minutes.

Basilashvili will play Taylor Fritz in tomorrow's semi-final after he also recovered from a set down to defeat Denis Shapovalov 7-5 in the third.

Quick Match Recap

federer basilashvili doha

Federer won the toss and, like the first match, elected to serve. However, this time around, the saving of a breakpoint was required to hold for 1-0.

A multi deuce game gave Federer some looks on the return, but Basilashvili showed how big he could hit the ball to hold for 1-1.

Federer then held to thirty, and Basilashvili looked to be well on the way to doing the same at 30-0, but Federer creamed some forehands to make deuce.

A double fault from the Georgian gave Roger a breakpoint, and he sealed it, firing a backhand winner down the line to wrongfoot his opponent to lead 3-1.

Some groundstroke mishits allowed Basilashvili a chance to recover the beak, but Federer steadied the ship to consolidate for 4-1.

A further hold then put Federer up 5-2, and he was soon serving for the set at 5-3. No wobbles, and he served it out with an ace to take it 6-3 in 37 minutes.

Into set two, and after showing signs of being able to do some damage on the return, Basilashvili broke through to establish a 2-0 lead.

Federer quickly fashioned three break-back points, but Basilashvili reeled off five points in a row to hold for 3-0.

Game four got Roger on the board, and 0-30 provided him with another window of opportunity to break back, but the set tailed off from there. Basilashvili held for 4-1 and took the next two games to level at one set all.

The Swiss kicked off set three with a hold to love before Basilashvili responded in kind. Federer then produced two quality serves at 30-30 to hold for 2-1.

By the set's midpoint, Basilashvili had begun to assert himself as the more dominant player, and Federer had to fight off three break points in game seven after being pegged back from 40-15 up.

The pair then exchanged comfortable holds as Federer moved into a 5-4 lead. A decision to challenge midpoint lost Baslashvili the point at 30-15 in the next game, and a mistimed slice caught him out as Federer set up a match point. Some big hitting saved it, and Basilashvili held for 5-5.

Federer soon found himself in the jaws of defeat from the cusp of victory as he dropped serve to fall 6-5 behind. Basilashvili showed no sign of nerves, holding to 30 to book his spot in the semi-finals.

Match Stats

  Nikoloz Basilashvili Roger Federer
Aces 12 12
Double Faults 5 0
1st Serve 61% (56/92) 69% (66/96)
1st Serve Points Won 77% (43/56) 67% (44/66)
2nd Serve Points Won 50% (18/36) 50% (15/30)
Break Points Saved 80% (4/5) 70% (7/10)
Service Games Played 14 14
1st Serve Return Points Won 33% (22/66) 23% (13/56)
2nd Serve Return Points Won 50% (15/30) 50% (18/36)
Break Points Converted 30% (3/10) 20% (1/5)
Return Games Played 14 14
Service Points Won 66% (61/92) 61% (59/96)
Return Points Won 39% (37/96) 34% (31/92)
Total Points Won 52% (98/188) 48% (90/188)


Thoughts on the Match

federer doha qf 2021

I honestly expected to feel this way. You know, the whole shoulder is really, I feel the muscle pain around that. I didn’t expect it to be honest here in the shoulder because I have been serving the whole time, but that comes I think with the pressure and just, you know, in matches you just go that extra percent, 5%?

I don’t know what it is. But when you’ve got your back against the wall, you’ve got to crank it up. I tried to do that time and time again against Dan. But, you know, once everything warms up – actually I felt overall today it was a more level performance, whereas yesterday I felt really up and down. But the rallies were also played totally different, as I explained before, against Basilashvili. He pushed me much more into the forehand corner whereas Dan was very much running around with his slice, keeping the ball low, and I think that was a challenge.

Overall the body is actually fine. I’m happy. You know, it could be much worse. I mean, there was always, you know, a little bit within me that thought, you know, how am I going to feel after a brutal first-round match? That’s what I was thinking about going into the tournament, and how would I feel the second round? I was always worried that maybe I couldn’t play it for whatever reason. I felt fine. You know, little stiff in the morning, but that’s totally normal I think. Federer speaking after his quarter final loss

Another good match for Federer to get under his belt here, and although it wasn't the ideal result, I thought he played well throughout. Put it this way; if you hold a match point, it's difficult to say you played too badly. 🙂

There were a few concerns towards the end of the second set when he looked a bit sluggish with the footwork, but to me, he just looked fatigued and not quite prepared to really push the envelope on the defence out of the corners. This is understandable; it's an ATP 250 and your second match back after a year out, the first of which was a tough three-setter.

I honestly think had he been feeling something; then he'd do the unthinkable, the most un-Federer thing possible and retire mid-match given how much he's put into rehab. Or, at the very least, tank it as Isner did in the Miami Final in 2019 for the last few games. But he stayed the course, held a match point and was competitive till the very last moment.

So could Doha have gone much better? Not really, I don't think, six sets, two fully completed matches, and he leaves knowing entirely where his game is at. He also didn't serve a double fault in either match, so that appears still to be the money shot.

The next stop for Federer is a training block after he revealed he would be skipping Dubai.

What did you guys think of the match against Basilashvili? Thoughts on the Qatar Open as a whole? Let me know in the comments.


Huge fan of Roger Federer. I watch all his matches from Grand Slam level right down to ATP 250. When I'm not watching or writing about tennis I play regularly myself and have a keen interest in tactics, equipment and technicalties of the sport.

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  1. Good match overall, gave him some highly needed info on where his game is atm and what should be worked on to improve it. He said that his goal is to be 100% for grass season so this is a good start. I think he’ll most likely play in Dubai, skip Miami and then play probably Madrid and RG (maybe some 250 clay). So, I’m really looking forward to watch him again in coming months and even tho he lost today, this is a work in progress and I’m pretty positive that he will be in top form for Wimby. 🙂

  2. “I honestly think had he been feeling something; then he’d do the unthinkable, the most un-Federer thing possible and retire mid-match given how much he’s put into rehab.”

    Yes, I too thought he wouldn’t have taken the risk, so soon after his return, and was praying that he wouldn’t, so I assume everything’s reasonably all right, just the result of two tough matches with not a lot of time to recuperate. Plus rust, of course.

  3. I too noticed the no double faults either day – I think he mentioned that himself yesterday.

    Simon Haering quoted him as saying “This one is super easy, I’m already over it. I’m happy I was back on tour. I’m pleased I came here. I’m really, really happy with the comeback” – maybe from Swiss German interview.

    I suspect if he had gone any further we’d have less of a chance of seeing him in Dubai next week too.

  4. This loss is a not a big deal. I’m glad he’s playing again and I think he will play well for the remainder of the year.

  5. Great to have Federer back, and nothing has really changed… low break point conversaion and having match points and still losing!!

    I just sense, as amazing it is just to watch him, that we won’t see him challenging for the big titles. We saw it at his last US Open 19, then Australia 2020… as soon as he’s pushed the knock on effect is huge.

    He has the ability and he will probably make quarters again at least in a slam, but to win even Wimbledon he will need a favourable draw and 5 quick wins to the semis. As soon as he has consecutive 4 set matches or gets taken to 5 sets in an early round it just really takes his chances in the next round down a big percentage. Still very much enjoyed the last 2 days though watching him again.

    1. yes, agree with your assessment on Federer’s chances winning big titles.
      I just couldn’t envisage him coming up top against todays’ youngsters the likes of Rublev and yes Bashila.
      These guys today are so quick and hit the ball so hard consistently off both sides. I may be wrong but I don’t think Federer has to contend with such breed ever in his career. Hewitt, Agassi, Safin, and yes even Nadal don’t play like them, today’s player simply bring tennis to the next level, IMHO. Sure, we can say Fed is already 40 with all the shortcomings associated with increasing age but even at his peak, I don’t think Fed will find it easy. Fed was at the mercy of Bashila’s ground strokes; just parrying and was not able to really hurt Bashila. Winning Wimbledon would be a tall order but hopefully the stars will align.

      1. Rublev bringing it to the next level ? Remember his performance at the atp masters. He is deadly to anyone lower than top 10. But within the top 10, he will only win if the other does not play at his top level. Whereas Rublev is maxed out. Hitting hard is not the next level, it’s what you do when you can’t handle the net, when you don’t have the finesse to do something else.
        So no, I am not at all worried about any of these guys, sure they may beat Federer, but Federer is a level above them, just like Nadal and Djokovic.

  6. Anda

    Great to have him back on tour. For a first appearance after such a long break, he did very well and I did not expect hom to do any better. Hope to see him in Dubai. Congratulations, Roger!

  7. So glad Roger is back! It will take some time to get back his rhythm!
    Thanks for sharing the highlights! It looked like to me that Roger is playing quite well, especially with all the time off!
    Better luck in next tournament 🙂

  8. Damn he won’t go in Dubai 🙁
    I was happy with the shot making during the tournament, by the way. Je probably needs more fitness, hence his decision of going back to the training camp.
    Let’s see, anyway it was such a pleasure to see him again that I can’t stand the fact that he will not be playing next week 🙁

  9. I wish he would play Dubai. More “match hardening” before Wimbledon. By his own description it’s different than training. I’m such a fan. Just love to see him play and wish him well. I didn’t get to see either of his matches this time. Will have to wait a little while longer I guess.

  10. Just read the news of him withdrawing from Dubai to get some more training. Any chance he’ll make a return at the Miami Open instead to defend his title?

  11. In all the press and other comments I’ve seen nobody gives Basilishvilli any credit. Unlike many games where people beat themselves with unforced errors, most of the points Federer lost were forced errors because Nikolov just kills the ball. Let’s give the man some credit for being one of the most exciting players in years!

  12. I have seen parts of the Basilashvili match. ,Nice shotmaking is always there, but once he needs to run more, unforced errors count rises. These are actually not unforced errors. They are forced by poor movement. I would not expect any progress in training. In training you can always make a pause because of not feeling well or getting tired.
    Basilashvili was not playing his best tennis but many will know how to make use of Fed’s weakness. The weakness is, as always,, partly physical, partly mental.
    In 2 last (and lost) sets Fed looked tired and scared. Like he felt, he is not sure, if knees will hold. Even his walking was different the always. He is not ready physically and mentally. If he can play well only one match against a mean opponent and then ´one set in the next match, it’s not rustiness. It’s the problem of not being recovered from the injury and feeling unsure about how far can he go. This does not disappear suddenly in next tournament and to be ready for a deep run in a slam – maybe it will not happen anymore. The only thing which worked really work was static – the serve was good. Then all coming balls were too fast and/or too hard. Federer was not happy after the second match. If he then says “the return was really, really good”, it’s one “really” too much. He tries to make his mood better. Deep in his soul he expected probably reaching finals in Doha and Dubai and fighting for the title and is now deeply disappointed.

    1. Few words more. I think, Fed is now in the situation of Stan after his knee surgery. How many years he needed to recover and as years go by, this makes it more difficult and Stan’s level is falling, probably for ever. Has Fed 2-3 years to restore his winning capability?

  13. Oh yes, a bit worrying. But with Roger, you never know. So please – I cannot count the many times he has been predicted out, and he still has come back in strength.

  14. Bummer indeed – I’d thought he would probably play Dubai, or at least not decide against it quite this soon. But what worries me now is: where does he play next if he takes a training break? If the knees are fine and he only needs to get used to relying on them not letting him down – which is purely mental – then what next? You can’t replicate competitive tennis properly in training, so he needs to play. And if he’s going to miss Miami still – and I think he should – is there any alternative but clay? I’d really hoped he could get a good few matches in on a non-clay surface before the clay season began.

    1. This.

      Travel all the way to a radically different time zone to get something he could have got in his own training hq backyard? – I’d be stunned if it happened.

      I too thought he would want the competitive play, & the fact he’s turning down the opportunity at a frankly ideal location makes me wonder if the physical recovery is not quite there after all.

      Though I’ve been thinking about Rod Laver’s quote recently, about one day being at the top of your game & the next feeling like you’ve forgotten how to tennis. (Obviously the greats’ “forgot how to tennis” would be vastly different from mine.) I don’t think Roger’s really had to deal with that yet, and it’s probably about time.

  15. Yes,it seems a shame(from a match practice point of view)that he is missing Dubai but he knows best.I thought he looked rather down in the third set,perhaps something physical was troubling him.However the old fighting spirit was still there and he had match point,so a tight contest over all against a tough and focused opponent.
    This could so easily have been a re-run of the Dan Evans match,where the opponent throws in a loose service game at a crucial moment in the third set.
    Perhaps Fed will be rather relieved not to have to play today as very high temperatures forecast for Doha🤔
    The top seed also out in another tough three setter, with Bautista Agut.
    So all in all,a toe in the water,movement still good,great backhand and service.A solid beginning.

  16. Fed is happy. That’s the most important outcome from the trip to Doha. I’m delighted, too.
    Wondering if clay is okay for his knees in terms of movement…?

    1. Principally clay is more friendly for knees. But the other side of the medal is, rallies are longer and players must run more. The same with sliding. It’s saving all joints, first of all ankles, but sliding is challenging for injured and not fully recovered joints. He could play only RG, but this are 5-setters, so no that good for him.
      I don’t think, missing match practice is a problem for player with such experience. Actually 3-setters in Doha should be good for recovery.

      We don’t know if the problem with knees is physical, mental or both. Short after injury, surgery and long pause, the player loses confidence and opponents will know, how to convert it to wins. We speak since many years about factor age and then we see, he can still win big titles and start to forget, the clock is ticking all the time.

      2017 comeback was a joy but he is now 4 years older and comeback preconditions are tougher. I’m not predicting anything but … can you see ow Fed playing Thiem (eve with his weak start to the season) or Rublev or Medvedev?
      Of course, we must not be realistic. We can live our dreams, whatever happens 🙂

  17. I know what Fed needs !
    Another or two Laver Cups to be organized in April and/or May with the best grass court players living on this planet to give him practice time +  competition + fun. The Rafa Academy has grass courts and a sunny weather and could be the place to be. The spectators could be the Perfect-tennis blog contributors as cheerleaders.  What do you think ?

    1. Interesting thought FBRF, I think you have a point. Laver Cup might be his thing of favor. Just waiting for the times to be ready.

  18. I think he should play only 250 events on clay. Like he said, the reason for playing the clay is only to get rhythm before Wimbledon, so there’s no point in forcing the machinery there.
    So, given that he isn’t in good shape and supposing that Nadal is fine, he should only commit to small events with no pressure, like Marbella/Sardegna, Estoril/Munich and Geneva. Three clay tournaments with enough rest within each other and two weeks apart from Halle after Geneva should suffice.
    Besides, by playing them there are better chances for the title rather than playing Monte-Carlo and Rome, considering he needs 6 more to clinch the record.

    1. OTOH maybe GS match experience (managing the days off , 5 set format & body recovery cycle etc.) might make him interested in a few rounds of RG to keep rhythm etc going. Different times but RG participation seemed fine as a warm up in 2019.

    2. He’s not going to be match tough for Wimbledon and Olympics without playing Bo5 against top opponents. Don’t think participating only in small tournaments with journeyman opposition helps him that much. The only Bo5 matches on offer before Wimbledon are in Paris.

      I suspect he’ll play a clay Masters (probably Madrid) and then RG.

  19. At this point in time, I don’t expect anything from Fed. Seems like he worked very hard to be fit enough to play in Doha. He never says what is happening with his body until long after. Looks like he is gunning for the grass season and USO. I’ve decided to go with the flow.

  20. Big fan of Roger, he’s 39 turming 40, he’s had two surgerys, so recovering from that. Playing tournaments and see where it goes, then re groupe, that’s the way to go ahead. He’ll get there. Love,


  21. Underestimate Roger at your peril! He’s not staying on the tour to make up the numbers. When he gets match fit in a couple of months he is capable of beating anyone including Nole on grass. That legendary first ever 5th set 12-12 tiebreaker in the Wimbledon final was only a couple of years ago. So many naysayers but he keeps defying his age & his critics. I guarantee you his goal for this year is a 21st major at Wimbledon & winning the only title that has eluded his otherwise illustrious career the singles Gold medal at the Olympics – then he might retire ! Go Roger Go !!

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