Federer enjoyed 'really, really positive return' but withdraws from Dubai

By Sports Desk March 11, 2021

Roger Federer was "really happy" with how he performed on his return to the ATP Tour but will not play the Dubai Tennis Championships.

After 14 months out following knee surgery, Federer was back in action at the Qatar Open on Wednesday, defeating friend and practice partner Dan Evans in three sets in the last 16.

But Nikoloz Basilashvili, Federer's next opponent, proved a step too far in the quarter-finals on Thursday as the 39-year-old Swiss superstar went down 3-6 6-1 7-5.

Federer breezed through the opener and recovered from a tough second set to forge a match point in the decider, but Basilashvili stuck with his "idol" and earned a first career win against the 20-time grand slam champion.

The result would not put a dampener on Federer's week, however.

"I'm already over it," Federer said. "I mean I would have loved to play tomorrow - don't get me wrong, you know - but at the same time I'm also happy to get a rest.

"I'm happy how I played today. I'm happy how I did yesterday. I'm happy I was back on the Tour. I'm pleased I came here to Doha.

"So it's a really, really positive return for me.

"I'm actually happy that I was able to play back-to-back three-set matches against top players. That's an important step forward for me. This is a stepping stone."

But Federer announced later on Thursday he had made the decision to return to training, putting on hold plans for a second tournament of the season.

He had been set to join a number of other big names in Dubai, although Spanish great Rafael Nadal has rejected a wildcard.

Federer wrote on his social media pages: "It's been great to be back on the @atptour, loved every minute playing in Doha once again. A big thank you to the best and loyal team that helped me get here.

"I've decided it's best to go back to training and as a result, I've decided to withdraw from Dubai next week."

Federer is an eight-time Dubai champion, most recently in 2019 when he defeated Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final.

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