Roger Federer admitted he felt tired at times as he returned from 14 months out to beat Dan Evans at the Qatar Open on Wednesday but will not be changing his post-match routine. The 39-year-old Swiss, who had not played since losing to Novak Djokovic in the 2020 Australian Open semi-finals since when he has had two knee operations, produced some vintage tennis to win 7-6(8) 3-6 7-5.
Encouragingly, Federer displayed his trademark silky movement and said the knee had held up during a two-hour 24-minute duel.
Asked whether he would be employing any new recovery techniques before his quarter-final against Nikoloz Basilashvili, Federer said he would stick to his usual routine.
“You’re talking to an old-school guy. So I have done one ice bath and I didn’t like it. So I’m not going to do that again,” Federer told reporters.
“I don’t just take painkillers for fun. I only take them when I really have to. Don’t feel like that’s the case tonight.
“I’m going to stretch and take a massage and sleep in and then warm up properly tomorrow. Very simple.”
While the 20-times Grand Slam champion said in the build-up that tennis for him is like riding a bicycle, he admitted there were nerves as his first match back loomed.
“In the morning I started to think about it and, I don’t know, you can just feel like you’re getting more tense again,” Federer said. “Not that you could start worrying, but you’re actually getting more excited than anything else.
“But overall I was really excited and happy the way I played.”
Federer has been away so long that he even had to be reminded of the rules, such as the time of the warm-up and whether or not to ask the ball kids for his towel.
“It happened a ton of times, not just once,” he said. “I forgot to take the towel. I forgot to bring the towel.
“Then the time, the shot clock is still not something that’s embedded in my system. I have played too long without the shot clock.
“Then I also forgot that the warm-up I guess was four minutes, because I was hitting with Dan and then next thing I know after 30 seconds he was already at the net volleying. I was, like, Why is he hurrying up so much?”
As far as his tennis was concerned, however, Federer produced a familiar display.
“There are a lot of things I can still improve on, but overall I’m incredibly happy how I played,” he said. “If I lose 6-2 6-2, I’m equally happy than sitting here 7-5 in the third, because it’s been over 400 days I haven’t been on a tennis court, so it’s been a long time.”