Roger Federer’s return to the ATP Tour lasted two matches.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion made a winning comeback with a three-set victory over Dan Evans, before losing to Nikoloz Basilashvili in three sets.
So what did we learn from Federer’s comeback in Doha? How did he look physically? And how long will it take him to get back to his best?
Australian Open
'I liked what Novak said' - Medvedev backs Djokovic over vaccine being 'personal'
YESTERDAY AT 10:35

He’s happy to be back

Win or lose, it’s clear that Federer is just delighted to be playing tennis again after so long out.
There was a smile on his face throughout the week, whether it was when he was reuniting with veteran umpire Mohamed Lahyani before his comeback match against Evans, getting the shot-clock time explained, or forgetting his towel at the change of ends.
Even when he mistimed shots or made mistakes, Federer could afford himself a chuckle or a grin, even at important moments such as the first-set tie-break against Evans when he led 8-7 and completely mistimed a ball as he came towards the net.

Prepare to be amazed: Federer's Top 10 shots at Australian Open and Roland Garros

He might not have the same smile if he miscues as much in a few months at Wimbledon, but this was a joyous occasion for Federer, as he made clear after his defeat to Basilashvili.
I'm happy how I played today. I'm happy how I did yesterday. I’m happy I am back on the Tour… it's really, really a positive return for me. I'm really happy.

Time is of the essence

Former Swiss tennis player Heinz Gunthardt said ahead of Federer’s comeback that what he was attempting was “one of the greatest challenges” in tennis.
While that might have sounded hyperbolic, it’s the time aspect that could make it so challenging.
At the age of 39, Federer is not aiming for a slow-build comeback that could see him return to his best next year or the year after; he’s hoping to win in a few months, after nearly 14 months out. He said after his defeat to Basilashvili that the grass-court season is “basically the beginning of the season for me”.
That means he's got about three months to get in the best shape possible for his main goals of Halle, Wimbledon and the Olympics. Is that enough time?
Andy Murray has shown the difficulty in trying to build up match fitness after so long out. He’s been back on the tour for two years after hip surgery and still does not seem as though he could cope with the physical demands of going through a week to win a tournament, let alone two weeks and five-set matches at a Grand Slam.

'I blew it, I messed up' - Murray on defeat to Rublev in Rotterdam

It was clear from Federer over his six sets in Doha that he will need time. There were several mishits in his opening match against Evans, and his footwork looked a little slower than normal, particularly as the contest wore on. He then started well against Basilashvili but again couldn’t maintain the level throughout.
Still, after 405 days away, back-to-back three-set matches against two top-50 players is not to be sniffed at. And he certainly showed that he still possesses the same effortlessly devastating groundstrokes and touch. The backhand down the line to seal the win over Evans was sumptuous, as was the early forehand barrage against Basilashvili and the backhand to break. There were also some well-executed drop shots and the occasional serve and volley as Federer went through his armoury.

The serve is going to be vital

If there’s one shot that is expected to be key to Federer’s chances of success, it’s his serve.
It looked decent enough against Evans as he started by making five first serves in his opening service game. He might not have been at full speed, but he fired down 13 aces in his first match and then 12 against Basilashvili. However, his second serve was seized upon at times by the Georgian, particularly in the second set when Federer won just 25 per cent points of points behind it.
Federer’s serve has always been a huge weapon of his and, if it’s working well, then it gives the rest of his game the best chance to follow.

Prepare to be amazed: Federer's Top 10 shots at Australian Open and Roland Garros

Onto the clay

Federer confirmed after his defeat to Basilashvili that he will not be staying in the Middle East to play in the ATP 500 in Dubai, which starts on Sunday.
That means it's straight onto the clay, unless he changes his mind about playing the Miami Open later this month.
The clay season starts on April 5 with two ATP 250 events before the Masters 1000 in Monte-Carlo on April 11. There are then plenty of tournaments where Federer can attempt to build fitness ahead of the grass-court season in June.
"I think matches are important," he said after his loss to Basilashvili. "What comes before the grass courts are the clay courts. So from that standpoint, I have no choice but to play on clay if I want to play matches."
Tennis
Federer, Murray fall in major ranking shake-up; Norrie, Badosa into top 15
18/10/2021 AT 08:40
Tennis
‘I don’t have her number but…!’ – Murray responds after Swiatek calls him dream hitting partner
09/10/2021 AT 17:08