British tennis legend Tim Henman has claimed that long-time friend Roger Federer will be hungry for success when he makes his highly-anticipated return to the court later this month at the Qatar Open. Federer has not played a competitive match for over a year after a long and painful struggle with injury in 2020, culminating in two knee surgeries that sparked rumours over the Swiss icon’s potential retirement from the sport.
The 39-year-old admitted in July that he was weighing up the decision to call time on his lengthy professional career, but opted to continue and will feature in Doha with the hope of building sharpness ahead of a return to the Grand Slam circuit.
Federer did not begin training after his final surgery until October, and will need to ease himself back into action in order to avoid any potential setbacks that could threaten his aim of getting back on top alongside the likes of Rafael Nadal and Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic.
Henman, who reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon on four separate occasions, has backed the 20-time Grand Slam champion to emulate his scintillating form of old in Qatar, claiming that he is expecting nothing less than a return to glory despite his long injury struggle.
“His old level is so high, he’s not going to come back just to be making up the numbers,” Henman told Forbes.
“He wants to be back competing to win the biggest and best tournaments. And that’s not going to get any easier as you get close to your 40th birthday. But he’s working incredibly hard, I’m sure.”
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Federer is widely regarded as one of the finest talents to have ever stepped onto a professional court, having scooped nearly every accolade since making his debut in 1998.
The Swiss star has kept his top-five ranking despite his forced absence from the ATP circuit, and was named as the world’s highest-paid athlete last year by Forbes, proving that he is still considered by many to be one of the best and most influential sporting stars around.
Henman continued, going as far to say that Federer could even be the greatest player in the history of the game.
However, with his 40th birthday on the horizon, his days at the top appear to be numbered, with the Brit urging fans to make the most of his presence on the court before his eventual retirement.
“For me, he’s the most mesmerizing player we have probably ever had in our sport,” added Henman.
“Tennis is blessed with some huge icons of the sport and of sport. Federer, Nadal and Djokovic, Serena Williams, they as big a star as you can get.
“So we’re fortunate, but they’re not going to be around forever. So it’s important that we do enjoy them while they’re still competing.”
Henman managed to win six times against Federer in 13 attempts before retiring in 2007.
The impending return of the biggest star in tennis will be a welcome boost for the sport after the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic last year.
All elite competitions were suspended in March while Wimbledon was cancelled for the first time since World War II.
Federer looks set to be a busy man in the coming weeks, with three tournaments lined up between now and the beginning of April.
After the conclusion of the Qatar Open, he is expected to make the short trip across to compete in the Dubai Open before a return to Masters 1000 action in the Miami Open at the end of the month.