The Qatar ExxonMobil Open Draw for 2021 has just taken place, and of course, the big story is Roger Federer's return to the tour after a 12-month interlude.
The Swiss is playing in Doha for the 8th time, and with a strong field, he faces a tough task from the word go.
Either his Dubai practice partner Dan Evans or Jeremy Chardy will be his opponent in the second round.
You can see his full list of prospective opponents below.
Federer's Projected Opponents
- Round 1: Bye
- Round 2: Jeremy Chardy / Dan Evans
- Quarter-Final: Borna Coric
- Semi-Final: Denis Shapovalov / David Goffin
- Final: Dominic Thiem / Andrey Rublev
Thoughts on the Draw
Roger Federer landed in Doha yesterday evening after the short flight from Dubai, so he's got a couple of days of practice before his tournament starts, thanks to receiving a bye in the first round.
For the second round, the Swiss will either face Dan Evans or Jeremy Chardy.
Evans has been practising in Dubai with Federer for the last couple of weeks. While he's never gotten close in three previous meetings, the Brit won his first ATP title in January (beating Chardy along the way) and is more than capable of hanging with the very best.
Chardy, who at one time looked like he might be a bogey player for Federer after pushing him to three sets in each of their first three meetings, hasn't really looked in form for the last few years. Still, he made the quarter-finals in Rotterdam and has started 2021 with some better results.
Chardy leads the H2H with Evans 3-1, and it's a coinflip for who comes through. My pick would be Chardy as I think he can outhit Evans, who will need to scramble well and his slice to be effective to come through.
The quarter-finals pit Federer against Borna Coric, a player who has given a fully match sharp Federer plenty of problems in previous meetings. The Croat is still playing in Rotterdam and is somewhat of a Djokovic clone, so that'd be a very tricky match if Roger can progress from Round 1.
Into the semi-finals and Denis Shapovalov and David Goffin are the two seeds in the other quarter. Goffin won the Open Sud de France last weekend to end a barren spell, but his section is tricky with Krajinovic, Fritz, and all potential stumbling blocks.
Shapovalov hasn't played since Melbourne, but over three sets, his game style can catch fire, so he is probably the favourite to make the final.
On the other side of the draw, it looks likely to be a straight shootout between Dominic Thiem and Andrey Rublev for a spot in the final.
Although given Thiem had an injury at the Australian Open and Rublev is still playing in Rotterdam, there's a chance for the likes of Wawrinka and former champion Bautista Agut to make hay should either of those two not be firing on all cylinders.
It will also be interesting to see if Aslan Karatsev can back up his Sunshine Slam exploits as he's bagged a Wild Card, but my pick for the title is Dominic Thiem.
Anyway, this one is a good draw, because Federer is in the draw, and I'd be more than happy if he can win one match. Stylistically, seeing a Federer vs Evans match would be a great way to get back into the swing of things, but the main thing is competing pain-free and seeing what happens. Can he still waste breakpoints like before he was injured? We're about to find out. 😁
What do you guys think of the draw? Evans or Chardy, who do you prefer? Let me know in the comments.