By Sports Reporter Doha
Roger Federer is “pumped” to get into competitive action after a gap of more than a year at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open.
And a small number of fans, with the Covid-19 restrictions dictating reduced capacity at the Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex, and the tennis world at large will be just as excited to watch the 20-time Grand Slam champion back in action starting with the Round of 16 after the second seed received a bye in the first round.
“It’s been a year since my last event,” Federer said in a video posted on Twitter. “I can tell I’m very excited... it’s been a long and hard road. I know I’m not at the finish line yet but it’s good, I feel I’m in a good place, I’ve been practising very well and I just feel really pumped up.”
Federer, who last played in the Australian Open in January 2020, has won the ATP 250 tournament most number of times at three (2005, 2006 and 2011), and last played in the Qatari capital in 2012, albeit not his best memory here since he had to withdraw from the semi-final due to a back injury.
“The first time I played here was in 2003,” he said during a virtual Q&A with kids on Saturday, “I don’t know if you guys were born in 2003,” he chuckled. “It was the first time I got a taste of this region, and I have seen the city grow a lot since then. I have great memories.”
The 39-year-old, who underwent two right knee surgeries last year, will face in-form Frenchman Jeremy Chardy or recent Murray River Open champion Daniel Evans in his return match. Chardy, who pushed Qatar ExxonMobil Open defending champion Andrey Rublev to three sets in Rotterdam on Friday, has already reached two semi-finals this year and Evans climbed to a career-high No. 26 in the rankings last month.
If he can overcome Chardy or Evans in his first match, he could face eighth seed Borna Coric in the quarter-finals.
Top seed Dominic Thiem could also face a tough test in his first match of the tournament. The US Open champion will meet Australian Open semi-finalist Aslan Karatsev or Qatar’s Mubarak Shannan Zayid. The 2018 semi-finalist is joined in the top quarter of the draw by fifth seed Roberto Bautista Agut, in-form Kazakhstani Alexander Bublik and Reilly Opelka.
Rublev could meet a fellow Doha titlist, 2013 winner Richard Gasquet, or a qualifier in his tournament opener. Rublev headlines the second quarter of the draw with 2008 runner-up and seventh seed Stan Wawrinka.
Fourth seed Denis Shapovalov and sixth seed David Goffin will compete in the third quarter of the draw. Shapovalov will face countryman Vasek Pospisil or a qualifier in his opening match, while Goffin will begin his third appearance at the ATP 250 against Filip Krajinovic of Serbia.
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