Doha, March 12
Roger Federer’s hopes of winning a fourth title in Qatar were dashed after last night’s quarterfinal exit but the Swiss said his first event after two knee surgeries was just a “stepping stone” as he targeted full fitness for the grasscourt season.
Federer took the opening set against Nikoloz Basilashvili before the Georgian fought back to win 3-6 6-1 7-5, ending the 39-year-old Swiss’ challenge at the tournament, his first event in 14 months. Up 6-5 in the third set, Federer earned a match point on Basilashvili’s serve but the Georgian saved it. Basilashvili then broke Federer to record a win over his idol.
“I’m actually happy that I was able to play back-to-back three-set matches against top players. That’s an important step forward to me,” Federer, who beat Dan Evans in the last-16, said. “Like I said, I’m not 100% yet. I can feel it, I can see it. From that standpoint, (what’s) important is to be 100% by the grasscourt season… I’m still building up. So this is a stepping stone. I’m actually happy how I felt on court overall.”
Federer initially eyed a return at last month’s Australian Open but slow progress in his recovery convinced him to skip it as he focuses at Wimbledon. Tied with Rafa Nadal on 20 Grand Slam wins, Federer has won Wimbledon eight times. “We’ve just got to take a real good look at the schedule and… See how much workload the body and knee can still take, what’s the best way to prepare for basically the beginning of the season for me, which is the grasscourt season,” he added.
Out of Dubai
Federer later announced the decision of pulling out of the upcoming ATP 500 event in Dubai. “It’s been great to be back on the ATP Tour, loved every minute playing in Doha once again,” 20-times Grand Slam winner Federer said on social media. “I’ve decided it’s best to go back to training and as a result, I’ve decided to withdraw from Dubai next week.”
World No. 2 Rafa Nadal has also pulled out of the Dubai Duty Free event, which runs from March 14 to 20. — Reuters