Roger Federer’s comeback to tennis came to an abrupt end today in Doha. A day after playing a tough 3-setter in his first match in 405 days, Federer was back on the court perhaps weary and couldn’t pull through against the heavy-hitting Nikolaz Basilasvili 3-6, 6-1, 7-5.
Federer was in good shape early but the Georgian started to gain rhythm on his serve and depth on his groundstrokes. Federer had break chances in the third and eventually a match point. But from that point, Basilasvili rolled winning 11 of the last 12 points, capping with a scintillating backhand crosscourt winner for one of his best career wins.
“It is unbelievable. He is one of the greatest of all time,” Basilashvili told the pro-Federer crowd. “To just play him means so much to me. I am really happy that he came back and is playing again. To win against him is a dream come true for me. He was always my idol and I am sure he is to many tennis players and fans. He is an unbelievable player, so I am extremely happy.”
Federer was just happy to have played back-to-back 3-setters.
“I come from so far away that 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 said.
“I’m not 100% yet. I can feel it. I can see it,” he said. “From that standpoint, important is to be 100% by the grass court season. I know that. I’m still building up.
“So this is a steppingstone. I’m actually happy how I felt today on court overall. I felt better against Dan, you know, physically I would think naturally, but I think Basilashvili plays a totally different game to Dan.”
Federer admitted to some stiffness after the win yesterday over Evans.
“I honestly expected to feel this way,” said Federer. “The whole shoulder is really, I feel the muscle pain around that. I didn’t expect it to be honest here in the shoulder because I have been serving the whole time, but that comes I think with the pressure.
“But when you’ve got your back against the wall, you’ve got to crank one out. I tried to do that time and time again against Dan,” he said. “Actually I felt overall today it was a more level performance, whereas yesterday I felt really up and down. But the rallies were also played totally different, like I explained before, against Basilashvili.
He pushed me much more into the forehand corner whereas against Dan was very much running around with his slice, keeping the ball low, and I think that was a challenge.”
Dominic Thiem followed Federer on a flight out losing to former Doha champion Roberto Bautista Agut in three sets 7-6(3), 2-6, 6-4.
“It was a very tough fight. Dominic is a very good player,” Bautista Agut said to the crowd. “He gives 120 per cent. I tried to give more than 120 today. I had to play very good to beat him and it was one of the greatest players I had in front of me today.”
Said Thiem, “He’s always such a difficult opponent to play as he fights from the first to the last points. Doesn’t give you anything for free. He also feels super good here in Doha. Obviously two years ago he won the title.”
Thiem is now just 5-3 on the year and 0-3 against Top 25 players.
“I have enough trust in my game and in my level that I know that any week again I can make a great step forward. I can start to play my best tennis again,” Thiem said.
“It was a little step in the right direction, and as I said, I try to build up on this next week in Dubai.”
Bautista Agut will now meet one of the hottest players on tour in Andrey Rublev who got a walkover from Marton Fucsovics who had a back injury.
Basilasvili, who went 0-9 to end 2020, will now meet Taylor Fritz. The American scored a terrific win over Denis Shapovalov 5-7, 6-3, 7-5. Shapovalov won all 24 points on serve in the first, but Fritz was unfazed in the comeback win.
“I don’t think I have ever gone a set without winning a point on someone’s serve. That was kind of crazy,” said Fritz.
“He was just playing really, really well in the first set, you know, like all I could really do was just serve and hold serve, because if I returned it, if I didn’t make it, like, good, he would just rip a winner on the first ball. I think I kind of just had to play myself into the match.”
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