Roger Federer recently spoke with the media ahead of the start of the 2021 Qatar ExxonMobil Open. Federer, who is making a comeback after more than 400 days away from the sport, talked extensively about his physical condition, his hopes from the year ahead, and also about his Big 3 rivals Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.
The 20-time Major champion is expected to take the court against one of Jeremy Chardy or Dan Evans on Wednesday. When asked if he had any concerns about his level of play, Federer replied in the negative. But the 39-year-old did admit that he wasn’t fully relaxed about his knee, and that he would constantly monitor his condition over the next few months.
“For me, tennis is like riding a bike, I always knew that I could play very little and still play very good,” Roger Federer said. “My biggest concern is the knee. I’ve had two knee surgeries, I had to build from scratch. Next 3-5 months are going to be interesting, how the knee is gonna react.”
Roger Federer then laid bare his intentions for the upcoming season, mentioning that Wimbledon is his foremost goal and that he hopes to be ‘100% fit’ by the grasscourt season.
The Swiss also revealed that his practice sessions had exceeded all expectations thus far, but added that he isn’t expecting much from Doha.
“Let’s see how matches and practices with professional players go,” Federer said. “It’s still building up to be better, fitter and faster, I hope I will be 100% by Wimbledon, and then the season start. Everything else is not that important. Perhaps I surprise myself, like I did in practice for the last three weeks. If I can pull off a couple of matches here in Doha, I’ll be happy. The expectations are very low. I hope I can surprise myself.”
Roger Federer then turned his attention to Rafael Nadal, speaking at length about the closeness of their relationship.
“I saw him grow, right in front of my eyes,” Federer said. “He’s one of the guys from tennis – players – that I could call up and, if I told him something, it would be a secret between the two of us. And I appreciate that we were able to build a relationship like that.”
When asked for his two cents on the ‘GOAT’ debate, Federer spoke in glowing terms about Nadal’s and Djokovic’s recent feats on the tour. The Swiss believes that the duo are motivated by his own achievements, just like he was by Pete Sampras’.
“I think it’s a great debate to have,” Federer said. “What Novak and Rafa have done lately is extraordinary, they’re not 25 either, but they seem at the peak. For them I am maybe the measuring stick, like Pete (Sampras) was for me.”
The knee will dictate what my comeback looks like: Roger Federer
During the presser, Roger Federer admitted that he isn’t entirely sure if his knee will sustain the rigors of the tour in the long run. For now, however, he has enough faith in himself to at least get started on a strong note.
“I’m not sure my knee will hold up,” Federer added. “But I’m confident, otherwise I wouldn’t be here. The knee will dictate what my comeback looks like. It sure is rare to see a 40-year-old back on tour after so much time.”
Roger Federer’s words seem to indicate that he hasn’t fully gotten rid of the pain in his knee, but the Swiss star stressed that everything was ‘under control’. Federer also believes he can play back-to-back three-setters for up to five days in his current condition.
“It is important that I am free of pain,” Federer continued. “I’m curious to see how it plays out. When I wake up in the morning I feel pretty good. The pain is under control. I can play two and a half hours for five days in a row. There are many positive things. But matches are different. When the nerves are also playing a part.”