Fed back with a bang
Swiss master hardly breaks a sweat in his first match back since July after injury
HE’S BACK: Roger Federer of Switzerland cruised through his first match since July against Dan Evans of Britain at the Hopman Cup in Perth. The 17-time Grand Slam champion has not played since losing in the semi-finals of Wimbledon due to a knee injury.
ROGER Federer defeated Briton Dan Evans 6-3, 6-4 yesterday to mark his return to tennis after six months away with a winning rubber for Switzerland at the Hopman Cup in just over an hour.
The 17-time Grand Slam champion was greeted by a state record crowd of 13 500, most waving Swiss flags distributed by organisers.
Federer last competed in a Wimbledon semi-final in July, then pulled the plug on the remainder of 2016 to let a knee injury fully heal.
Federer was back at the eight-nation team event in Perth for the first time since 2002, after winning it a year earlier with Martins Hingis.
The 35-year-old admitted that he was touched by his reception as he took to the court.
“The welcome was extra special, it felt nice getting the recognition,” Federer said. “I felt it was much better than I thought it would be. I was quite emotional.
“It felt good putting the match shirt on again and going back out there. These are moments that I’ve missed the most, that’s what you play tennis for. This first match was great, but expectations were quite low.”
Federer took 61 minutes to earn victory, breaking in the first set and fighting off two game points moments later to keep the lead. After lifting the opener, he cemented his return to form in the second.
He said his knee has given him absolutely no worries for at least a month.
“I’ve stopped thinking of it now, there is no reaction. It’s nice that way that I’ve been able to get rid of it entirely. Probably there will be some minor maintaining to be done, but nothing serious.”
Federer also admitted that he was quite happy in the run-up to his comeback, when praise rained down on likely the best ever to play the sport.
“I’d like to re-live it again,” he joked. “I’m a little sad (the excitement) is over. I’ve enjoyed it so much.”
Meanwhile France’s Richard Gasquet and Kristina Mladenovic recovered after losing the first rubber to beat Germany 2-1 at the Hopman Cup.
The French clinched victory over Germany by winning the hybrid FAST4 mixed format, winning it 4-2, 4-1 over Andrea Petkovic and teenager Alexander Zverev.
Petkovic, who suffered a 2013 knee injury in Perth which forced her out, started the day off with a German win as she beat Mladenovic 6-2, 6-1, with the Frenchwoman committing nearly 20 unforced errors.
“I was in full focus for today, I’m very satisfied with how I played,” Petkovic said after her singles success.
“I had a few hiccups, I could have gone for a little more on my serve and played more aggressively at times.
“But overall it was a solid performance, I’m happy with the first match of new season, there is a lot to look forward to.”
Gasquet evened things up for the French as he defeated fast-rising Zverev 7-5, 6-3 to bring on the tiebreak decider.
“I trained well at the end of 2016, I know that I’m ready for the season. And I like to play in Australia,” Gasquet said.