ATP Masters 250DohaRoger Federer

Roger Federer Makes Winning Return in Doha

The Swiss was playing his first competitive match in 405 days.

A man to meet if you want to get beat. He’s back, it’s amazing, ain’t no jive, Fed comes alive. With moves and groves and dance and prance, you fools better recognise who’s the man.

Roger Federer is back on the ATP Tour after a 405-day absence, and he returned in style, coming through a tricky three-setter with his Dubai practice partner Dan Evans to win 7-6(8), 3-6, 7-5.

The Swiss showcased all his fighting spirit and, for periods, looked as though he'd never been away, particularly on his first serve in the early stages which provided him with ample free points.

Evans, who won his maiden ATP title back in January, has been more than a match for Federer in practice over recent weeks, and he dug deep in the second and third sets to take it to the wire. Still, Roger prevailed, sealing his second match point with a backhand down the line winner.

Quick Match Recap

federer evans doha 2021

After some clarification around how long the shot clock was and how the towels work, Federer won the toss and elected to serve.

He kicked things off with a comfortable hold to fifteen for 1-0, just like the old days.

Evans levelled to thirty, but Federer improved on his first game with a love hold for 2-1.

Another hold to thirty put Evans level, but another love service hold, featuring 2 aces put Federer in front at 3-2.

The serve continued to dominate with both players exchanging back to back holds, and aside from a point that ended with a Federer half volley pick up at the net +  overhead, the points were kept short.

However, at 4-4, a rare look at a second serve allowed Evans to establish himself in the point, and he took advantage of a short ball to make thirty-all.

A slick backhand winner up the line set up a breakpoint, but Federer saved it with an inside in + inside out forehand combo. The Swiss avoided any more danger to hold for 5-4.

Evans quickly forced Federer to serve again with two aces en route to 5-5, but Federer fired down his third love hold of the set to guarantee himself at least a tie break.

Evans replied in kind, and the set concluded in a tie break. Federer got himself in front 2-0 after the wind pushed an Evans backhand long, but the Brit turned the tables to win 4 straight points for 4-2.

A backhand pass put recouped the Federer mini-break as Evans could only net the stretch volley before two solid serves put Federer up 5-4.

Under scoreboard pressure, Federer used the chip charge to try force the error, but Evans had worked the point well with his low slice and picked off the net rushing Federer with a forehand pass.

Evans held the next point to give himself set point, but Federer used the serve forehand combo to lead 7-6.

A second serve ace after Federer guessed wrong allowed Evans to save set point, but a Federer cross-court forehand on the run landed on the line to produce a set point on his own serve.

A looping Evans return looked set to be put away, but Federer didn't get there quick enough yet still decided to try the drive volley despite the ball being at shoe height. 😂

A wry smile appeared on the face of the Swiss, but he was soon back to business, opting again to use the drive volley, this time successfully to lead 9-8.

Evans came in behind a solid forehand down another set point, but Federer got there with plenty of time, allowing him to rip a backhand cross-court winner.

Into set two and Federer fashioned his first break point of the encounter, winning four straight points from 0-40, but Evans held to lead 1-0.

A love hold got Roger level at 1-1, and he was again able to fashion deuce on the Evans serve, but the Brit held for 2-1.

Evans then broke through for the first time in the match, aided by a classic backhand shank on break point to lead 3-1.

Federer could fashion an immediate breakpoint back, but Evans saved it to lead 4-1.

Another close return game saw Federer make deuce in game seven, but Evans held firm to lead 5-2 and maintained his advantage to take the set 6-3.

Federer kicked off set three with some authoritative forehands to hold for 1-0. Evans was soon level at 1-1.

That trend continued until game six when Roger fashioned a couple of deuce points, but Evans held off the pressure with some nice serving to level at 3-3.

In game seven, a couple of loose points gave Evans a 0-30 window, and he was able to set up a breakpoint at 30-40 when Federer put too much on a backhand. 

Federer saved it with an ace and then fended off a second with a well-executed dropper before pulling out the hold to lead 4-3.

At 30-30 in game eight, Federer came in but didn't quite do enough with the volley, and Evans produced a stylish pass up the line en route to holding.

A hold to fifteen gave Roger a 5-4 lead, and he then fashioned a match point after Evans missed a fairly easy volley. A serve and volley switch up saved it from Evans, and he went onto hold for 5-5.

Game eleven started with a slick improvised backhand drive volley from Federer, and despite a couple of shanks, he held to lead 6-5.

A double fault didn't give Evans the start he wanted when serving to stay in the match, and with a visibly tired Federer looking to throw caution to the wind, he drew a couple of errors from Evans to set up two match points, converting the first of them with a backhand winner down the line.

Match Stats

  Dan Evans Roger Federer
Aces 9 13
Double Faults 3 0
1st Serve 63% (78/123) 68% (71/105)
1st Serve Points Won 76% (59/78) 79% (56/71)
2nd Serve Points Won 49% (22/45) 53% (18/34)
Break Points Saved 75% (3/4) 75% (3/4)
Service Games Played 17 16
1st Serve Return Points Won 21% (15/71) 24% (19/78)
2nd Serve Return Points Won 47% (16/34) 51% (23/45)
Break Points Converted 25% (1/4) 25% (1/4)
Return Games Played 16 17
Service Points Won 66% (81/123) 70% (74/105)
Return Points Won 30% (31/105) 34% (42/123)
Total Points Won 49% (112/228) 51% (116/228)

Highlights

Thoughts on the Match

fed win doha r2 2021

It feels good to be back, I am happy to be standing here regardless of whether I won or lost but obviously winning feels better.

It was a good match and Dan played a good match, he has been a wonderful training partner with me over the last two weeks – we have played more than 20 sets so it went on and on and it was great fun.

I was more focused on being tired that winning the point so I felt if I was going to go out I am going to go out swinging but I am incredibly happy I played a really good match, served really well and nice to finish with a backhand down the line on a match point.

It's been a long and tough road, but I have enjoyed it, it has been a huge challenge at my age but I have a wonderful team around me that have supported me throughout and it was worth it. Federer in his on court interview

Well, folks, Fed is back, and it was a typical rollercoaster ride.

Some fans were desperate for a win, some just happy if he got a few games, some hoped it would at least be competitive, and others wanted Roger to be able to test his legs in a tough physical match. Well, in true Fed style, he delivered all of those requests while putting in another great performance.

From his reaction on the court, I think he probably surprised himself and the level he played at. Of course, there's a level of tennis he can always expect even if he was hitting the ball with a stick of rhubarb, but to beat a top thirty opponent after not playing for over a year was a great effort.

I thought he served great and held up pretty well over the duration. There is no way you can replicate a competitive tour match in practice sets as there is physical fatigue, mental fatigue, and the adrenaline is pumping, which is also draining. You don't get that in practice.

I read a book recently by a late WWII Veteran who on D-Day said that after a short firefight, he just fell asleep instantly while kneeling in a fox hole. The adrenaline had gone after the battle, and he was out like a light. His friend prodded him with an M1 20 seconds later, and he woke up feeling like he'd slept for 10 hours. So I imagine Federer will sleep like a baby tonight.

Other than that not much to say; there is no point in micro analysing his game this early and asking questions like if he was half a step slower than before, did he move well to his forehand etc. as the main thing was stepping on the court, the huge bonus was winning.

Evans will be a bit disappointed not to beat a rusty veteran, but he played well, and it was only really the last game where things didn't quite work out. That serve and volley to save a match point in the previous game was quality, and had he managed to force a tie break; he clearly had more energy in his legs.

Predictions vs. Basilashvili

fed 1

Next up is the hard-hitting Georgian, Nikoloz Basilashvili, who has recorded wins over John Millman and Malek Jaziri to make the quarter-final.

Federer has played him once before, a straight-sets rout at the 2016 Australian Open and Basilashvili has suffered a drop in form over the last year or so, perhaps owing to some off the court troubles, which of course aren't helped when in modern-day woketopia you're guilty until proven innocent, especially in the eyes of the media.

If this were Fed's first match back then, I'd expect him to win, but after a tough three-setter? It really depends on how he's feeling in the legs. Basilashvili has three titles to his name, and if he starts blasting winners, he can take the racquet out of your hands. 

What did you guys think of Federer's comeback? Predictions vs Basilashvili? Let me know in the comments. 

Jonathan

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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67 Comments

  1. What an awesome return! Though I feel like the speed being the last to return that Paganini was referencing was on display given how he is even weaker with the running forehand. A problem area opponents were already starting to exploit pre-injury.

    1. Funny how you had actually addressed this with some good perspective on how it’s the first match back and not the time to nitpick things like being half a step slow on the running forehand. I had zealously rushed to post my comment before reading since I thought I might get the first comment on the story with my maiden post on the website. 🙂

    2. Haha I think it’s too soon to question shots and movement. Give it a few matches at least before putting Fed under the microscope 😀

      I mean if I played someone who hadn’t played for a year, I don’t think I’d be telling them where their game is weak.

  2. Thank you for posting the highlights! Hate not being able to see Federer’s moves! Glad he was able to win his first match. Missed him so much!💕

  3. Fed comes alive 🥳

    I think it could well be another tight three setter with Basilashvili, although he could resurrect the Fed Express and fly through after a close match today.

  4. Watched the match,highly entertaining.I always felt Fed was going to win and there were flashes of the old brilliance.
    Evans was very good,a tough opponent,but fell to pieces in that last service game.That backhand down the line to
    finish was so Federesque😊Fed a bit lucky perhaps to be serving first in the final set,I think the scoreboard pressure might have got to Evans a bit.Very impressed with Feds movement,quite balletic.
    How we’ve missed him.

  5. Brilliant! Dan Evans will be my number 2 favorite (along with a few others). I hugely wish him well except in Fed-matches. What an entertaining and admirable match between both, really really nice to watch.

  6. Yay! Roger is back and so are you! Great read and yes, I agree, not much point in over analysing. He played well enough, serve held up, over hit the FH at times and lacked feel at the net, but he won against a man in good form and who knows Fed’s game well. Lovely match to watch!
    I thought it was his 3rd MP after Dan saved 2 serving at 4-5 but cld be wrong..

    Basher Basil next, with more power off the ground, but more error prone.
    Yep, depends on Fed’s recovery but he wanted a couple of good matches and so far so good!
    Ps, nice outfit and nice shoes!

    1. Yeah did lack some touch. If you had asked me to pick what would be better, his ground game or his volleys I would have picked volleys as just naturally good. Surprised he botched quite a few of them when I was watching.

      Yes, had 3 match points total, Evans saved 1 at 4-5 with that serve-volley, then-Fed converted the first at 5-6. Not sure what I have written as it’s all a blur 😀

  7. J., long time. Hope you and everyone are doing well.
    So Happy to see things rolling again for Federer and this blog!! A respite from what has been a tough last 12 months.
    Happy Fed got tested (matchwise-ofcourse) and get a feeling that he wont mind it. The idea I belive is too get a couple of matches atleast to test the body and mind under match pressure like you said it J. results really dont matter like Fed himself said at this point but a wins a win, guarantees him 2 matches atleast here in Doha and anything else would be bonus really and playing another couple or going deep in Dubai would truly be a ‘comback complete’ at this point.
    I feel the “Doha-Dubai” stretch would do him a lot of good as a build up given he might probably be skipping miami this year (keeping in mind travelling for a masters 1000 to US may not be that ideal) but ofcourse at this stage of his career – his body, and mental side of preparations comes first (ofcourse he knows best).
    I think he ll be playing a couple of tournamemts on clay (which served him well in ’19) before he switches to grass and pace himself well (atleast 4-5 tournments) prior to the Wimbledon-Olympic stretch.
    Went too far here? Geez. I am too excited. Roger looking hood and playing tennis – That is pure bliss.

  8. I have no idea where my original comment went, but I’ll try to post it again
    First of all, what a joy and relief to see him so relaxed and happy on the court! He enjoyed himself, he seemed like Ronaldinho of tennis, and boy oh boy, did he show some magic as well like Dinho!
    I saw a bit of rust on some shots (forehand, initially on the volley, but he improved during the game, and his backhand was superb) but altogether this was a very appreciated surprise, beating a top 30 (probably 20, since Dan’s form seems really good and he played great today) after more than 400 days away is nothing short of excellence.

  9. So many positives, I thought he was hitting the ball extremely hard and clean a lot of the time. The serve started like a prime fed, it went away slightly but that’ll just be tiredness. I noticed a lot of kick serves in the ad side but that was probably just a tactic. It was obvious he wasn’t pushing himself too much movement wise, I didn’t see him lunge that much and I didn’t see any sliding but it’s so impressive to win a match like this when he’s not pushing himself too much which I think is a huge positive. His movement and confidence is only going to increase the more he plays, like he said, the aim is to feel 100% for Wimbledon which after today I think is really possible.

    1. Guess he never been much of a slider on the hard courts a la the next-gen. I thought he moved pretty well, a bit cautious maybe in some movements. But for a first match? Awesome.

  10. With him being close to his 40th birthday, nearly 14 months off court and 2 knee surgeries, I must say that this was great match from Fed. He moved good enough, he was hitting better than I expected, his serving was great. I’m just happy to see him play again, but this performance gives me hope that 2021. might be a good year after all… We just have to bel21ve!
    P.S. Another great review Jonathan, looking forward to next one 😀

  11. It is fun to come to this site and celebrate the win with you all! Very glad that Fed won, it was great to see him making great shots, seeming to be enjoying his time on court, and wearing his custom ON shoes. At one point the announcer said, “Hand up, who’s missed him?”

    Me!!! I’ve sure missed him.

  12. Boy, it’s good to see him back, even just in edited highlights (and nice to see some good shots from Dan, too). It looked pretty nip and tuck most of the way when I was looking at the stats – there seemed to be a 50/50 split on points most of the time – so I’m glad Roger was able to win (although obviously disappointed that Evo had to lose so early in the tournament). Nice to have Jon’s reports back, too!

    Normally, I wouldn’t expect Roger to have much of a problem with Basilashvili, but at the moment – and after nearly 2.5 hours on court – who’s to say? If his legs have seized up by tomorrow he could have problems.

    1. He said he was tired. So…my expectations are a bit low for today’s win – but with Fed you never know! And all in all so well promising comeback, I cannot wait for his next matches

    2. Yeah it’s a short turnaround time for sure, this will be the most tired he’s felt since the last match he played on tour for sure.

      I guess DOMS can take 2 days, so maybe he will be ok!

  13. It is so great to have Fed back and to have these posts back! Great job, as always, in describing and analysing the match. Fed played great, especially considering the circumstances, and hopefully we will get to see him in many more matches this season. It is true that Bashy can be tough when he is on, but he can also basically disappear for a match. I think Fed is a definite favourite for that match.

    1. Yeah, has he even been out the first round at a tournament up until these last couple recently? I would normally make Fed a huge favourite but the short turnaround is not easy.

  14. The report on the Red Button says that Roger “said he had not played pain-free”. Anyone know anything about this? Typically, the report doesn’t say anything more on the subject.

    1. Odd – usually if he’s hurting he doesn’t say anything. Wonder if it could be a translation issue?

      1. Ah, thanks, Jonathan, that would make sense – talking about the past. My sister spotted it, and I wondered, because I hadn’t spotted it anywhere.

  15. I ❤️ Roger Federer. So nice to have him back. I was never a tennis until I first watched him play when I was visiting friends in Calistoga, Calif. Today he looked great. I can’t wait to see him play the rest of this year. Wimbledon would be an awesome win. 🎾🎾🎾

  16. Plenty of positives, thought he was striking it really clean at times and his serve looked very dependable before he understandably tired. Looking forward to seeing how he recovers for tomorrow, would be great for him to get another win, the more time he spends on court the better 💪🏼. We need to remember he has another training block after Dubai in which the knee will get even stronger and then hopefully he can play plenty of matches on the clay so by the time Halle comes around he’s in full flight.

    1. Yeah interested to see if he plays Dubai, must purely depend on what he feels and I guess he will ask Pagnini what he thought as he will no doubt have been watching closely.

      1. I think he definitely plays it, hopefully the court is as quick as it normally is too

  17. So great to see!

    Fed’s reaction after match point at 4:54 or so looks like pure and intense agonizing relief & gratefulness all wrapped into one. It looked almost like he was on the verge of tears, and I bet he was. After such a long breakaway, he must have wondered deep inside, “how will I perform?? Can I still do it??”

    It must have weighed on him even though he played it off in interviews as “no expectations”. In the heat of battle – with all he’s been through over his career – he must have felt very different.

  18. Nice match by Fed. So pleasant to see him play. No grunting, no excessive ball bouncing, no useless repetitive movements, no excessive toweling, fast to the line, and always professional. With new shoes no less. Welcome back Fed.

  19. Very nice. It’s not like we haven’t seen any good shots while he’s been away, but somehow it’s different when he’s dancing on the court. Thought Evans had some good gets too. I loved the rapid-fire exchange at the net, we rarely see that nowadays. Seemed like he was placing his shots pretty well. Really a wonderful win for his first match back.

    I like the outfit, minus the stupid red squares of course. They could just take the one off the chest and leave the ones on the sleeve & shorts. (Though even those could be color-coordinated.) is red supposed to be a good luck color in Japan too? Maybe that’s why.

    Interesting to hear him being the one to bring up his age. He’s in a different place, of course. It’s really all gravy at this point.

  20. So when Federer does hang up his racket and tennis loses something peRFect, what will you do with this website? Find another aesthetically pleasing player to cover, like Daniil Medvedev? 🙂 Great articles, by the way.

  21. I love these posts! Thanks so much. I taped and watched and was so so happy to watch and see him win! He’s my absolute favorite!!

  22. My pandemic woes and blues ended yesterday for good 🥰🥰🥰🥰🥰
    What a delightful site to watch.

  23. Heaven on earth watching our man play again. Yes, he did look like he was close to tears during the on court interview. Funny how the interviewer was half a court away. Geez.
    The tennis world is happy today!

  24. Such a recovery deserves a poetry !

    E …lated to be back on the fields of your dreams
    V…accinating your fans against your vacancy
    E…merald precious stone like a Wimby prairie
    R…e-united Fedfam cheering in harmony
    G…rateful we are to see tennis and poetry
    R…oars will come back shortly on the court, Qatari
    E… legant  white slippers as fresh as big-daddy
    E…verlasting smiles on the face of Rogi
    N…ow, get ready, here comes Basilashvili !

  25. So much joy in the tennis world!
    What a delightful come back and was a fun match with some superb tennis from not just our Fed but also Evo. He played a big part as well. Great have your recap back, Jonathan! So nice that the chat’s back, the gang in the chat’s back, Katyani Wisdom’s back, FBRF’s poem’s back and BP wasterer’s back. Missed this all, didn’t we! 😀

  26. salut
    je suis très heureux, Roger restera toujours le meilleur, la touche et la magie de maitre qui dérange les concurrents,
    après plus de 400jours sans jouer aucun match officiel Roger fait étonner tout le monde, j’aimerai bien le voir avec le trophée en main et puis en passera à Dubai pour la même mission. je suis très confiant c’est un retour gagnant.
    merci bcp Roger.

  27. Thanks Jonathan for the recap. We could not see the match here in SA so I was just following the score and waiting for the post to go up. Just a privilege to have him back in a match! Go Fed …

  28. Ah well. I didn’t watch much of this QF – the little I saw was quite boring, and Fed looked bored too. So he got some practice and that was the main intention, eh? Never mind this small loss. – ?

  29. THat’s a shame, he was clearly tired out by 3rd set, but his opponent was hitting the ball incredibly hard. Still showed a lot of guts to get it to 5-5 in the 3rd set before the pressure overcame him. I think it’s more tiredness though . I doubt he could have played another one tomorrow even had he won. Looking forward to Dubai assuming he plays; those courts are faster.

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