Fed back with a bang

Swiss master hardly breaks a sweat in his first match back since July af­ter in­jury

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - DPA

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.

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