Roger Federer said he is "very excited" ahead of his long-awaited return to the ATP Tour at the Qatar Open.

Federer has not played competitively since his semi-final exit at the 2020 Australian Open – the 20-time grand slam champion having undergone knee surgery last year.

The 39-year-old Swiss superstar opted not to travel to Melbourne for this year's Australian Open, but he is set to make his comeback in Doha next week.

Before departing for Qatar, Federer said on Friday: "It's been a year since my last travel to any event and I'm very excited.

"This is the moment where I could maybe thank all the people involved who made this possible.

"It's been a long and hard road. I know I'm not at the finish line yet, but it's good."

Federer holds the record for most Qatar Open titles with three, with his most recent success at the ATP 250 event coming in 2011.

The 103-time tour-level champion added: "I feel like I'm in a good place, I've been practising very well.

"Hope you guys also are going to tune in to watch it and I hope I see you again very soon. Take care everybody."

Federer and Spanish great Rafael Nadal have both won a record 20 major titles.

Veteran Federer is on the comeback trail and planning to play tournaments in Doha and Dubai in March, building up to Wimbledon and the Tokyo Olympics, key goals for what might prove to be his final season on tour.

Former Wimbledon champion Michael Stich believes winning a ninth SW19 crown would be the perfect moment for Federer to bow out.

Stich told Stats Perform News recently: "It is clear that at some point he will stop. Many would have thought that already five years ago.

"We have no influence on that. I would wish for him to win Wimbledon and say after the final: 'You know what, I had a sick time, I'll stop.'

"There couldn't be anything better and that would give so much to the sport."

Andrey Rublev was pushed hard by Jeremy Chardy on Friday but eventually secured his 18th successive ATP 500 win to set up a semi-final meeting with Stefanos Tsitsipas at the Rotterdam Open.

Chardy managed to save match points in the second set, as Rublev wobbled at the crucial moment, but the Russian got the job done 7-6 (7-2) 6-7 (2-7) 6-4.

The pair were on court for just under two hours and 40 minutes and racked up a considerable number of winners, with Rublev's 44 eight more than the Frenchman.

His 18-match winning streak in ATP 500 events has only been bettered on five previous occasions since 2009, all of which were achieved by Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer, who holds the record of 28 successive victories.

If he is to get any closer to Federer's remarkable haul, Rublev will have to go beyond Tsitsipas, but Friday's match took plenty out of him.

"I will try to do as much as I can to be ready for [the semi-final]… Stefanos also had two tough matches [this week]," said Rublev.

"He had three sets [on Thursday] and today he had three sets. Now he has to play doubles. It is not easy."

As Rublev alluded to, Tsitsipas certainly did not have it all his own way against another Russian, Karen Khachanov, coming from a set down to win 4-6 6-3 7-5.

Tsitsipas also had to contend with being 3-1 down in the third set – but Rublev knows all about the Greek's ability to come back from the brink having lost to him in last year's ATP Finals despite having match point.

"He [Khachanov] was playing great tennis and I wasn't sure if I would be able to compete," Tsitsipas said after the contest.

"I had an amazing 5-0 lead in the second set and that brought a lot of confidence into my game. We had great rallies and the quality of tennis was excellent. You need to stay as calm as possible in three-setters. I have won a lot in the past and with experience, it gives me an idea of how to play in these tight moments."

Borna Coric and Marton Fucsovics will go head-to-head in the other semi-final.

Croatian Coric came through in straight sets against Kei Nishikori, though it was by no means a straightforward victory as he was pushed to tie-breaks in both sets, winning 7-6 (7-2) 7-6 (7-4).

Fucsovics saw off Tommy Paul 6-4 6-3 to reach the last four.

Australian Open semi-finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas emerged from a brutal battle with Hubert Hurkacz to reach the quarter-finals of the Rotterdam Open. 

The second seed will meet Karen Khachanov in the last eight of the ATP 500 event. 

His progress was in doubt for parts of his 6-4 4-6 7-5 victory over Hurkacz, the match lasting two hours and seven minutes on Thursday. 

But Tsitsipas, the highest seed left in the competition after an early exit for Daniil Medvedev, did not allow Hurkacz a single break point either side of the solitary loss of serve he suffered in the second set. 

"I played really well," said Tsitsipas, who has an 8-1 record this year. 

"Both of us, we played a high [level] of tennis and didn’t give [away] many break-point opportunities. 

"[There were] pretty good serves from both sides and I am really glad that I fought so hard towards the very end. It was exhausting, but it paid off."

It was the fifth straight match between Tsitsipas and Hurkacz that required a final set. 

"Hubert is a very tough competitor," added the Greek, who is yet to win an ATP 500 tournament.  

"We have played loads in the past. Every single time I go out on the court, I know what to expect.  

"He is a fighter and he doesn’t like to give up, so it always makes him a very difficult opponent." 

Dusan Lajovic had stunned Melbourne runner-up Medvedev with a straight-sets win on Wednesday. 

However, his campaign was ended by Borna Coric, who won comfortably 6-3 6-2 to ensure he will face Kei Nishikori in the quarters.  

Veteran qualifier Jeremy Chardy defeated David Goffin, ending the Belgian's hopes of back-to-back ATP titles, and will take on Andrey Rublev in the last eight.

Andy Murray slumped to defeat to Andrey Rublev at the Rotterdam Open, where both Alexander Zverev and top seed Daniil Medvedev crashed out in Wednesday's action.

Rublev – defeated by Medvedev in the Australian Open quarter-finals – booked his place in the last eight with a clinical 7-5 6-2 victory over the former world number one. 

The world number eight hailed Murray as a "true legend" ahead of the clash, with the Russian and Scot having previously met only once before. 

Murray, then at the peak of his powers, came out on top in the second round of the 2017 Australian Open, thought it was a far different story this time around, Rublev dispatching his opponent with relative ease. 

Rublev saved all three break points that Murray managed to create during proceedings, breaking twice in the second set before wrapping up the win at the first opportunity.

Dusan Lajovic put in an impressive display as he registered a 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 victory over Medvedev. 

A run to the Rotterdam final would have moved Medvedev up to world number two, yet the Australian Open runner-up was well shy of his best. 

The Russian led by a break in the first set, only for Lajovic to hit back to square things up at 3-3, with the Serbian winning the tie-break when Medvedev double-faulted. 

Lajovic looked to have the odds stacked against him early in the second set, yet ultimately fought back again following another unforced error from the world number three to claim his second career win over Medvedev.

Lajovic will now face Borna Coric to tee up a tie with Kei Nishikori, who followed up his opening win over Felix Auger-Aliassime by beating Alex de Minaur 6-3 2-6 7-5 to clinch a quarter-final spot. 

The other shock result during the day came in the form of world number seven Zverev losing 7-5 6-3 to Alexander Bublik. 

It was the biggest win of Bublik's career, with the world number 43 - a finalist at the Singapore Open on Sunday - having now triumphed in his last three matches against top-10 opponents. 

Zverev was playing for the first time since a quarter-final defeat to Novak Djokovic in Melbourne last month. 

Bublik will face American Tommy Paul in the next round, while David Goffin beat Jan-Lennard Struff and Alejandro Davidovich Fokina got the better of compatriot Roberto Bautista Agut. 

Andrey Rublev will face Andy Murray at the Rotterdam Open after the Russian battled past Marcos Giron 7-6 (7-1) 6-3.

The appetising showdown between Rublev and former world number one Murray was handed a primetime evening slot on Wednesday's schedule by tournament organisers, given the appeal of a clash between one of the ATP Tour's brightest younger stars and the three-time grand slam winner.

World number eight Rublev is, at the age of 23, among the band of players who have emerged as potential torchbearers for the men's tour once the likes of Murray and the big three of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic make way.

After wildcard Murray's win over Robin Haase on Monday, Rublev secured victory on Tuesday against 80th-ranked Giron, who earned his place in the ATP 500 tournament through qualifying.

Murray and Rublev have played only once before, in entirely different circumstances to those surrounding Wednesday's match. That previous encounter came at the Australian Open in 2017, with Murray, then ranked number one in the world, scorching to a 6-3 6-0 6-2 win in round two.

The Scot has since undergone major surgery on a hip problem that has threatened to end his career, and heads into his clash with Rublev ranked 123rd in the world but eager to show he can compete at a high level.

"Andy is a true legend and I have a really good connection with him. I really like him as a person and as a player. He destroyed me once in the past. I'm sure we'll have great, long rallies and it will be a fight," Rublev said, quoted via the ATP website.

Australian Open semi-finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas passed his first-round test by scoring a narrow win over a player that beat Murray in Montpellier last week – the second seed and world number six overcoming Belarusian Egor Gerasimov 7-6 (7-4) 7-5.

The tournament lost a three-time grand slam champion when Stan Wawrinka was edged out 6-4 7-5 by Russian Karen Khachanov in a tough first-round matchup for the Swiss, who sits just one place above the Russian at number 20 in the world rankings.

Alex de Minaur beat fellow Australian John Millman 6-1 6-4, while top seed Australian Open runner-up Daniil Medvedev begins his challenge on Wednesday when he tackles Serbian Dusan Lajovic.

Three-time grand slam winner Andy Murray revealed he deleted his social media apps after being inspired by The Social Dilemma documentary, rather than constant abuse he receives about retiring.

The 33-year-old claimed his first ATP Tour victory in six months on Monday, winning 2-6 7-6 (7-2) 6-3 over fellow wildcard Robin Haase in just under two and a half hours at the Rotterdam Open.

The past few years for Murray, who missed last month's Australian Open after testing positive to COVID-19, have seen him battle hip issues, before getting a metal cap inserted to strengthen the area.

Since then, the Scot been unable to reach the levels that previously saw him win major titles and be world number one, leading to constant calls for him to retire, particularly on social media.

"Actually, I deleted it, I don't have Twitter on my phone and I deleted Instagram last week, not because of that [the retirement comments]," Murray said.

"You see those things on Instagram and social media if you're on it, obviously and if you have the app on your phone but I'd watched a while ago that Social Dilemma movie.

"I thought it was brilliant and then actually, a couple of days after my match last week I watched an interview with all the people that were responsible for making that and I was like, 'Yeah, I’m done'. I deleted that off my phone but yes, it's tough."

Murray admitted his return from his injury battles had been physically taxing, while the mental toll had not been easy to handle either.

However, he felt he performed well enough to offer him no genuine reason to want to retire from the Tour.

"Since I came back and started playing with the metal hip, I’ve beaten some pretty good players," he said.

"I beat Stan [Wawrinka], I beat [Matteo] Berrettini, I beat [Alex] Zverev. I served for the match against [Fabio] Fognini. These are top players that I was playing against and competing well against and physically now I'm in a better place than I was then.

"I've put in a lot of good physical work since then so why should I stop because I lost a match last week against someone [Egor Gerasimov] that people would expect me to win against.

"Everyone out there can play and because I'm not on the top of my game just now, and once I get there I believe I'll win matches more competitively.

"Why should I stop? Tell me a good reason for why I should stop playing. I can still compete with the best players in the world with one hip. I think that's quite amusing really."

Andy Murray produced a stirring comeback in the final set to overcome fellow wildcard Robin Haase at the Rotterdam Open on Monday.  

Murray, who was dumped out in the first round of last week's Open Sud de France, hit 33 winners on his way to a 2-6 7-6 (7-2) 6-3 triumph – his first tour-level victory since the 2020 US Open.  

The Scot got off to a slow start and found himself 4-1 down in the first set, with home favourite Haase comfortably seeing things out from there in the opener.  

Murray needed a tie-break to take the second set before finding himself 3-0 down in the decider. However, he put together a stunning six-game run to claim a fifth career victory over Haas in six meetings.

Next up will be either number four seed Andrey Rublev or qualifier Marcos Giron in the second round. 

Elsewhere, Kei Nishikori ended a run of four straight defeats with a 7-6 (7-4) 6-1 victory over seventh seed Felix Auger-Aliassime to set up a clash against Alex de Minaur or John Millman.  

"It was a very tight game, he was serving great especially in the first set and he won a lot on first serve," Nishikori said. "I played solidly in the tie-break and served well on the last couple of points. It was easier in the second set, with his injury, but I was more comfortable and striking the ball better." 

Murray's compatriot Cameron Norrie, meanwhile, cruised past Georgia's Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-0 6-3 and will play Stan Wawrinka or Karen Khachanov in the next round. 

Andy Murray produced a stirring comeback in the final set to overcome fellow wildcard Robin Haase at the Rotterdam Open on Monday.  

Murray, who was dumped out in the first round of last week's Open Sud de France, hit 33 winners on his way to a 2-6 7-6 (7-2) 6-3 triumph – his first tour-level victory since the 2020 US Open.  

The Scot got off to a slow start and found himself 4-1 down in the first set, with home favourite Haase comfortably seeing things out from there in the opener.  

Murray needed a tie-break to take the second set before finding himself 3-0 down in the decider. However, he put together a stunning six-game run to claim a fifth career victory over Haas in six meetings.

Next up will be either number four seed Andrey Rublev or qualifier Marcos Giron in the second round. 

Elsewhere, Kei Nishikori ended a run of four straight defeats with a 7-6 (7-4) 6-1 victory over seventh seed Felix Auger-Aliassime to set up a clash against Alex de Minaur or John Millman.  

"It was a very tight game, he was serving great especially in the first set and he won a lot on first serve," Nishikori said. "I played solidly in the tie-break and served well on the last couple of points. It was easier in the second set, with his injury, but I was more comfortable and striking the ball better." 

Murray's compatriot Cameron Norrie, meanwhile, cruised past Georgia's Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-0 6-3 and will play Stan Wawrinka or Karen Khachanov in the next round. 

Argentine teenager Juan Manuel Cerundolo celebrated an historic ATP Tour debut with a Cordoba Open title.

Cerundolo capped a dream week in Buenos Aires, where the 19-year-old qualifier upstaged fifth seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-0 2-6 6-2 in Sunday's final.

With the memorable triumph, Cerundolo became the only Argentinian in the Open Era to win a title in their tour-level debut.

Cerundolo also became the youngest ATP Tour champion from Argentina since 2001 and the first player to win on their bow since 2004.

The world number 335 – who had only played 14 matches on the Challenger Tour, owning a 7-7 record – is the fifth-lowest ranked winner in ATP Tour history.

 

Serena Williams showed there would be no letting up in her relentless pursuit of tennis history as she hit the practice courts with one of the biggest names on the men's tour.

A semi-final defeat to Naomi Osaka at the Australian Open was the latest blow for Williams in her attempt to match Margaret Court's record of 24 grand slam titles.

Stuck on 23 since winning at Melbourne Park in 2017, Williams has gone repeatedly close in the subsequent years without getting her hands on a major trophy.

She took to the courts with Bulgarian ace Grigor Dimitrov, a beaten quarter-finalist in Australia and former world number three, as part of her continuing bid to keep improving and stay focused on those title goals.

Dimitrov could not resist boasting about the prowess of the player he was hitting with, posting a video of their session and writing on Instagram: "My practice partner is better than yours."

He added a goat emoji, signalling his belief that Williams is the greatest of all time.

Williams gestured a fond goodbye to the Australian Open crowds after her loss to Osaka, and became tearful in an after-match news conference when asked if it was a final farewell.

"I don't know. If I ever say farewell, I wouldn't tell anyone," said the 39-year-old.

Her next appearance on tour is expected to be at the Miami Open, starting on March 23, a tournament which has confirmed Williams, Osaka, Bianca Andreescu and Simona Halep among its field.

There was a little sibling envy from Venus Williams on Sunday when she questioned where Serena and Dimitrov were rallying.

"Omg are you guys hitting now? Where is my invite??" Venus wrote.

The next grand slam on the calendar is the French Open, beginning on May 23, while Serena may see Wimbledon, beginning on June 28, as providing her best chance of another slam.

She has won seven times at the All England Club, two behind the record held by Martina Navratilova.

David Goffin beat Roberto Bautista Agut in the Open Sud de France final to win his first title on the ATP Tour since 2017.

The Belgian came from a set down to prevail 5-7 6-4 6-2, securing a fourth consecutive win over Bautista Agut.

It made him just the third non-Frenchman to lift the trophy in Montpellier, following in the footsteps of Tomas Berdych and Alexander Zverev.

The world number five sent down 13 aces and converted four of his seven break points en route to his fifth tournament win.

Alexei Popyrin claimed his maiden ATP Tour title with victory over Alexander Bublik in the final of the Singapore Tennis Open.

Popyrin, who stunned Marin Cilic in the last four, triumphed 4-6 6-0 6-2.

The Australian lost only six points on his serve, wrapping up the win in 84 minutes.

"It feels unbelievable," said Popyrin. "A lot of sacrifice, a lot of dedication and a lot of hard work went into this from myself, my team and my whole entire family.

"I have done it for everybody who was involved. I am just so proud that I could actually get it done."

David Goffin moved a step closer to ending his ATP Tour title drought by seeing off the challenge of Egor Gerasimov at the Open Sud de France. 

Having previously lost in two semi-final appearances at the tournament in Montpellier, Goffin made it third time lucky as he came out on top in a deciding set against his opponent from Belarus. 

The second seed claimed the crucial break in the seventh game, then quickly consolidated his lead with an impressive hold. Gerasimov forced him to serve out for the win and Goffin duly delivered under pressure, clinching on his second match point. 

The world number 15 – who won two of his four career titles in 2017, but none since - will next face Roberto Bautista Agut, who defeated Peter Gojowczyk 7-5 6-1 after just one hour and 16 minutes on court.

At the Singapore Tennis Open, Alexei Popyrin caused an upset as he defeated Marin Cilic via a pair of tie-breaks in a hard-fought semi-final. 

Popyrin prevailed 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (7-2) to knock out Cilic, who had survived two match points before eventually beating Kwon Soon-woo in the previous round. 

Alexander Bublik is also through to the final, guaranteeing a first-time winner on the ATP Tour at the tournament. 

Bublik made the final of the Antalya Open earlier this year but had to retire due to an ankle injury. He will hope for better fortunes on Sunday, securing another opportunity for a maiden title after battling back from a set down to see off Radu Albot. 

Marin Cilic survived match point en route to defeating Kwon Soon-woo and booking his place in the Singapore Tennis Open semi-finals on Friday.

The former world number three is aiming to become the sixth active player to reach 20 titles on the ATP Tour this week but was staring down the barrel when trailing 5-4 in the deciding set.

But Cilic survived to record a 6-2 2-6 7-5 win against his Korean opponent and earn a last-four date with Alexei Popyrin, following the Australian's straight-sets win over compatriot Matthew Ebden.

"I think that the third set was solid from the both of us, it was a great match and it went to the end," Cilic said. "At 5-5 [in the third set], I kept my focus and felt that I was going to get my chance. 

"There were a few break opportunities that I couldn't convert, but on the third one, I hit a great return."

Radu Albot is into a first ATP Tour semi-final in 19 months after knocking out top seed Adrian Mannarino 6-3 6-4. His reward is a semi-final with Alexander Bublik, who overcame fifth seed Yoshihito Nishioka in straight sets.

At the Open Sud de France, top seed Roberto Bautista Agut made short work of Ugo Humbert in a 6-3 6-3 win. He next faces Peter Gojowczyk after the German routed Dennis Novak 6-4 6-1.

Second seed David Goffin cruised past Lorenzo Sonego 6-4 6-4 and will play Egor Gerasimov in the last four after his three-sets win over Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

Egor Gerasimov followed up his win over Andy Murray in Montpellier by powering past a man who once played second fiddle to the Scot.

The Belarusian saw off Aljaz Bedene, with a 6-4 7-6 (7-4) win carrying him through to the quarter-finals of the Open Sud de France.

Bedene was British number two to Murray heading into Wimbledon in 2016, when the Scot won his third grand slam title, but has since reverted to representing his native Slovenia.

He put up a fight against Gerasimov, who sank Murray in straight sets on Tuesday, but the 28-year-old from Minsk took three of his five break-point opportunities and held his nerve in the tie-break to advance.

The success for Gerasimov sets up a last-eight clash with Spain's Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, who scored a fine 7-5 6-2 win over Polish fourth seed Hubert Hurkacz.

Top seed and world number 13 Roberto Bautista Agut raced to a 6-0 6-3 victory over French qualifier Gregoire Barrere, but Croatian third seed Dusan Lajovic tumbled out, losing to Dennis Novak in straight sets.

At the Singapore Open, second seed John Millman fell by the wayside, the Australian slumping 6-4 6-1 to compatriot Matthew Ebden.

French top seed Adrian Mannarino encountered no such problems, ending the hopes of Roberto Marcora with a 6-3 7-5 win to join Ebden in the quarter-finals.

Rafael Nadal has withdrawn from the Rotterdam Open after being advised to give his troublesome back problem time to heal.

The world number two was scheduled to represent Spain in next week's tournament at Rotterdam Ahoy but has been replaced by Reilly Opelka of the United States.

Twenty-time grand slam winner Nadal has been struggling with a lower back injury and was also forced to pull out of Spain's ATP Cup ties this month.

The 34-year-old was cleared to take part in the Australian Open, where he did not drop a set before losing to Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarter-finals.

However, Nadal has still not fully recovered from the issue and will now miss another event.

Organisers of the ATP 500 tournament confirmed the news on Thursday and Nadal later took to Twitter to explain the decision.

"It is with great sadness that I have to forfeit from Rotterdam," he said. "As most of the fans know, I suffered some back problems in Australia that started in Adelaide and continued during Melbourne. 

"We found a temporary solution that allowed me to play without pain in the second week of the tournament. Once I got back to Spain I visited my doctor and together with my team they've advised not to play this upcoming week. 

"I was really looking forward to coming back to Rotterdam and The Netherlands since it's been a while I played there this was the perfect year for my calendar. 

"I hope to come back and play there soon. All the best to the tournament, always a top-class event."

World number three Daniil Medvedev will replace Nadal as the top seed in the Rotterdam tournament, which runs from March 1-7.

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