Dominic Thiem says he is a “big fan” of Roger Federer and can’t wait to see the 20-time Grand Slam champion back in action this week.
Federer will be making his return after over a year away from the tour following two knee surgeries.
He hasn’t played since losing in the semi-finals of the 2020 Australian Open and will face either Jeremy Chardy or Dan Evans in his comeback match at the Qatar Open on Wednesday.
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Thiem is the top seed at the tournament and is excited to see how Federer looks on his return.
"We are rivals, and of course we want to beat each other in the tournament, [but] I still really love to watch him play tennis,” he said.
"He looks so nice, the way he plays, the way he approaches the game of tennis.
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On the one hand, I'm also a big fan of his still, and that's why I really love that he's back and that I can watch him again. That's what pretty much everybody is thinking, and I hope that he's coming back strong, as well.
Thiem is on the opposite side of the draw to Federer and the pair could only meet in the final of the tournament.
The Austrian hasn’t played since losing to Grigor Dimitrov in the fourth round of the Australian Open last month, and will be facing Aslan Karatsev, who reached the semi-finals in Melbourne as a qualifier.
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"The draw is unbelievably strong,” said Thiem. “So you never know what's going to happen, but I just try to have a good start and to be there on a good level from the very first point.
"It's going to be my first tournament and first match [in almost] a month, since a pretty devastating loss at the Australian Open.
"I needed some time to digest everything, to analyse everything and to settle down a little bit.
"Now it's time to focus on new things. The tournament in Doha is the first chance to play better again, to get good results, to get confidence and to forget a pretty tough start of the season."
Thiem, who won his first Grand Slam at the US Open last summer, reached the semi-finals of the Qatar Open in 2018.
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Richard Gasquet is also competing in Doha - facing Andrey Rublev on Wednesday - and says he is impressed by Federer's longevity.
"It’s fabulous that he’s coming back, unbelievable at 39-years-old,” he said.
"It’s exceptional after two knee operations. I’m happy he’s coming back, he’s the greatest – so far. It’s great that he can still play and we’ll see what happens.
"What impresses me is the longevity, the career and the physical impacts he has had. With all the matches he has played he is still here."
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