Roger Federer is confident his story in tennis is “not over yet” in a pointed message to long-time rivals Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. Federer returns to the court for the first time in 14 months at the Qatar Open in Doha, taking on the winner of Jeremy Chardy vs Dan Evans in the second round.
Federer has not played since the 2020 Australian Open semi-finals when he lost in straight sets to Djokovic on the Rod Laver Arena, having since undergone two knee surgeries.
During his time off the Swiss icon has watched Nadal join him on 20 Grand Slams while Djokovic’s third straight triumph in Melbourne moves him on to 18.
Both are expected to surpass Federer’s tally but the 39-year-old is plotting more major success, having not added to his haul since winning in Australia three years ago.
Federer came devastatingly close to a 21st Slam at Wimbledon, where he is a record eight-time winner, in 2019 but wasted two championship points against Djokovic to lose a five-hour thriller.
And it is SW19 where Federer wants to be back at his best this year as he slowly looks to improve his condition to be at 100 per cent for his favoured grass-court tournament.
“It’s still about building up, being stronger fitter and better,” Federer said ahead of his return in Doha.
“I hope that by Wimbledon I am gonna be 100 per cent. Everything until then, see how it goes.
“I might surprise myself. But right now I take it day by day. Everything starts hopefully with the grass.
“I want to be healthy, I want to go skiing, but I feel that there’s something left. Retirement was never really on the cards.
“If the knee keeps bothering me for months and months to come, then you have to have that conversation. But that would be something to talk about in the fall. Now is not the time to think about it.
“At the moment I can play five days straight, for two-and a half hours. I didn’t expect to be able to do that so soon so there are a lot of positives.
“I feel like the story is not over yet. I can’t think of one reason except that I enjoy playing tennis, I enjoy being on the road.
Speaking after landing in Doha, 103-time tour-level champion Federer – who is six titles off matching Jimmy Connors’ all-time record – spoke of his excitement about getting back on to the court.
“It’s been a year since my last travel to any event and I’m very excited,” the Qatar Open second seed, who could face Dominic Thiem or defending champion Andrey Rublev in the final, said.
“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. 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.”