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Roger Federer beats Dan Evans at Qatar Open with stylish display on injury return


Roger Federer

Roger Federer had not played since January 2020 before playing Dan Evans (Image: GETTY)

Roger Federer overcame British No 1 Dan Evans 7-6, 3-6, 7-5 in the second round of the Qatar Open on Wednesday afternoon on his long-awaited return from injury. Federer was made to work extremely hard by Evans for his victory in Doha in a two-hour, 24-minute match of very high quality.

The Swiss icon was strong on his serve in the first and third sets – although his levels dropped in the second – and moved freely and struck the ball well as he returned to the court for the first time in 14 months.

The sharpness and freedom of movement with which Federer played throughout was notable given he had spent so long away from the ATP Tour before this, although it was clear he was tiring, as was to be expected, as the match wore on.

The world No 6 was forced into a first-set tiebreak in front of a socially-distanced crowd at the Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex but saved a set point and came out on top 10-8 to wrap up the first set in just shy of 50 minutes.

Evans, who hits regularly with the three-time Doha champion and practiced with him in Dubai recently, responded brilliantly with a sublime performance in the second set.

The Briton was no walkover whatsoever for Federer and secured the first break of the match to move 3-1 up. He battled hard in his next two service games to avoid Federer breaking back.

Roger Federer

Roger Federer was victorious on his return to the ATP Tour against Dan Evans (Image: GETTY)

And in doing so, Evans claimed his first ever set against Federer in what was his fourth meeting against him, having lost all of the previous 10 sets.

The crowd were loudly in support of Federer, with audible groans when he mishit a volley into the net in the first-set tiebreak which produced a smile from the 20-time Grand Slam champion.

But despite that, the equally-as-entertaining Evans was impenetrable on his serve in the third as he sought just his fourth ever win against a top-10 player and the first of his career against one of the ‘Big Three’ of Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.

Federer saw a match point saved after he had survived two break points earlier in the deciding set to prevent his practice partner running clear.

But world No 28 Evans refused to give in and held on to make it 5-5 in an entertaining centre court clash which had even top seed Dominic Thiem engrossed, the 2020 US Open champion staying to watch on despite vowing he would leave after the first.

Yet as Evans once again served to stay in the match, Federer earned himself two match points and converted the first to finally break his rival and to claim victory in just less than two-and-a-half hours.

Roger Federer Dan Evans

Federer and Evans played in front of a socially-distanced crowd in Qatar (Image: GETTY)

Federer is seeking an 104th tour-level title at this event in Qatar and before Wednesday, had not played on tour since the semi-finals of the Australian Open back in 2020.

Then, the 39-year-old – who had played encumbered – was downed by Novak Djokovic in straight sets in the final four and having clearly not been at 100 per cent health, admitted afterwards: “Today was horrible.”

He has since undergone two knee surgeries, the first in February and the second in June after he noticed his right knee was swelling up after walks or bike rides with his family.

Ahead of the Qatar Open, Federer opened up on his injury struggles and said: “I know it’s more on the rare side for almost a 40-year-old to come back after almost a year being out.

“And I was surprised how long it took. But I took a decision quite early with the team that I wanted to take the time, no rush, to get back onto the tour.

“Important is that I’m injury-free, pain-free, and I can actually enjoy myself out there on tour. So we’ll see how it goes now. I’m curious myself to find out.

Dan Evans

British No 1 Dan Evans played an incredibly high level of tennis despite defeat (Image: GETTY)

“It’s still a building up to being stronger, better, fitter, faster and all that stuff. I hope, then, by Wimbledon, I’m going to be 100 per cent.

“And from then on, then the season really starts for me. Everything until then, it’s just ‘Let’s see how it goes’.”

But Federer will be satisfied with his first showing here, and will take on Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili in the quarter-finals of the tournament.

Elsewhere at the Qatar Open, top seed Thiem overcame Aslan Karatsev – who stunned the world of tennis to reach the Australian Open semi-finals – to make the last eight.

The Austrian will take on Spanish fifth seed Roberto Bautista Agut in his next match while defending champion Andrey Rublev was afforded a walkover and will go head-to-head with either Hungarian big-hitter Marton Fucsovics or South Africa’s Lloyd Harris.

Canadian fourth seed Denis Shapovalov is also into the quarters and will take on American Taylor Fritz next up.


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