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March 10, 2021

Roger Federer

Doha, Qatar

Press Conference


7-6, 3-6, 7-5

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. You looked pretty good out there, considering you have not played for more than a year and had a couple of knee surgeries. How was the difference kind of transitioning from practice to coming back to the match court? Generally, how were you feeling out there?

ROGER FEDERER: No, I felt actually really good and relaxed last night, even though it was like the night before, you know. Then in the morning I started to think about it and, I don't know, you can just feel like you're getting more tense again. Not that you could start worrying, but you're actually getting more excited than anything else.

But in practice I was feeling just a bit, you know, -- I don't know. Just like this was not just another training day, you know. I think this is the biggest difference, you know, is that you care very much about your outcome of the game, whereas in practice you couldn't care less, really. I mean, for me, anyhow. I know some guys do. So the nerves are just not there.

I think this is what I felt throughout the game, as well. Because you want to try to play free and you want to try out things and then it's a game, and you can't really do it. I don't know.

But overall I was really excited and happy the way I played. I mean, Dan was a tough first round, I thought, but the good thing was I probably practiced with him the last couple of weeks so I really knew what to expect. It's just that when we were practicing, the court was faster in the past so this was slower.

I knew it could be a little bit tricky how to construct the point against him on a slow court, but look, it felt great to be out there again regardless of the outcome. Losing in straight, winning in straight, winning in three, it's going to give me a lot of answers. Interesting to see how I'm going to feel tomorrow, but right now I feel actually pretty good so I'm really pleased.

Q. After being in that competitive environment for the first time in a while, what would you say, if anything, surprised you about yourself out there, either from a stroke standpoint or a mental, in the midst-of-a-match and decision-making standpoint? Is there anything that surprised you about that?

ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I mean, I was very happy with how I was able to handle the tough moments. I didn't feel like, you know, my game started to wobble the more important the points got. I think I was able to play how I wanted to play, so I think that's always a great sign and a great feeling to have.

Because especially just coming out of practice, you know, and in practice it doesn't matter if you miss a backhand down the line being down breakpoint. But here it matters a lot. So I think not serving any double faults in my first match back over two hours and 20 minutes, I think that's a sign that, you know, the knee is doing really well on the serve, which I think is crucial.

I realized that I had to come forward more and, you know, as the match went on longer, I was able to produce that and really come to the net more and take chances up there. That obviously stresses the body more, because you're trying to make those plays instead of just staying back and rallying, which can be sometimes a little bit easier in my mind, so which I was really happy about, was that I was really explosive, actually, even though of course I was going in swings of being tired again and then feeling better again.

But overall I must say I'm really pleased. It was a good performance against a great player. It felt great to be back on a match court.

Q. What was the toughest part of the whole experience? I don't mean a particular situation in the match, but was it fitness, was it decision-making?

ROGER FEDERER: I thought the decision-making was okay. You know, I knew what I wanted to do but couldn't always produce it just because of the lack of matches maybe.

But then again, because I was practicing a lot, as well, before and hitting with Dan the last few weeks now, I did a lot of two-on-ones this year, and when you play two-on-ones, you always end up changing directions. You go from crosscourt to down the line and so forth. So I thought that was really good, you know, overall.

Then the part that gets a little bit more tricky is the sometimes the easy shots. You know, I would miss quite a few easy shots from time to time, but I feel like that was part of the footwork, those little adjustment steps that you just have to take at the very end. With a long match, you get a little wobble going sometimes.

But I still think I tried to do the right thing. I just then misfired. I think that's natural that's going to happen from time to time. Overall I'm okay with that, you know. You would think that only gets better over time.

Q. Wondered about the fact that you have done a couple of training blocks with Dan now. Is there something about his game that you quite enjoy being across the net from?

ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I mean, I think usually I pick hitting partners depending on their character, too, I think more than their game. Because if you make it into the top 250, I'm sorry, you're a good enough player. You can do everything.

Of course you need somebody who shows up to every practice, not somebody who doesn't care one day and not the next, but with me that is very rarely that anybody would ever do that to me. Dan's an easygoing guy. I enjoy talking to him. He's also somebody when you sit on the side of the chair, you know, well, we always chat. Then eventually, like, well, we've got to play again. We can't just keep on chatting.

It's nice when you go through training blocks like this that you have somebody who actually is interesting to talk to. There is nothing worse than somebody who doesn't say a word for two weeks.

So from that standpoint, it's always fun with him. Plus he's getting better and better. He's a good player. Like I said, I think he mixes it up, and from that standpoint it's not every day the same match.

That's why I think it was really good preparation for me to play with him. That's what I told him at the net, as well. I appreciated everything we did together the last few weeks.

Q. Can you talk about what your recovery routine is for the next 24 hours? A lot of ice, a lot of Advil? What happens now in order to get yourself ready to play the next match?

ROGER FEDERER: You're talking to an old-school guy. So I have done one ice bath and I didn't like it. So I'm not going to do that again.

I don't just take painkillers for fun. I only take them when I really have to. Don't feel like that's the case tonight. I haven't taken painkillers probably in, whatever, nine months, I guess, ever since the surgery was over. So from that standpoint, I'm really healthy.

So just have to grab some food. I'm going to stretch or take a shower first because we're not allowed to shower on-site, and then I'm going to stretch and take a massage and sleep in and then warm up properly tomorrow. Very simple.

Q. You obviously didn't have much trouble on the court today in terms of the way you played, but there was a nice moment at the beginning where you forgot or you were asking about the time between points and the towels. Did it feel like you have been away as long as you have?

ROGER FEDERER: Yes, I mean, it happened a ton of times, actually. Not just once. I forgot to take the towel. I forgot to bring the towel.

Then the time, the shot clock, you know, is still not something that's embedded in my system. I have played too long without the shot clock.

Then I also forgot that the warmup I guess was four minutes, because I was hitting with Dan and then next thing I know after 30 seconds he was already at the net volleying. I was, like, Why is he hurrying up so much?

I looked at the shot clock. It was already 3 minutes 10 seconds only left and I hadn't barely done anything yet. There was a lot of times during the match I had to look at the scoreboard again, just to make sure is it change-of-ends time or not? Because there is a lot going through my mind at the moment about what's my next shot, how am I feeling, tactic, what's Dan doing.

I think it's almost too much for the brain to take, so I tend to forget a lot of things, like you said, with the towel, or I would ask for the towel, and then obviously I realized they couldn't even bring it to me because the rules are different nowadays.

So, yes, it feels like I have been away for even longer than I actually have been, yeah.

Q. On the point of being away for so long, an off-court question, this is all very new for somebody like you, virtual press conferences, what do you think of them? What would you prefer? This or the old style?

ROGER FEDERER: I think this is probably much easier for a lot of the guys because it's not so easy to be in the same room and sitting across from each other getting asked a tough question.

For me, that's not an issue. I have had it. But I can imagine for a lot of the guys this is much easier because you can just say, like, give a bad answer and move on and then you don't have to see the person again and you don't see his reaction or a guy rolling his eyes or you have to feel bad about your answer.

But as you know, I prefer the old school. I prefer how it was. It's always how it's been. But I have done a lot of conference calls, you know, the last year. To be honest, I did a ton of them. So I'm used to it and it seems to work very well.

I don't know how it is for you guys, but it's definitely something that's probably going to stick around for a little bit because it seems to work, but I would prefer, you know, how it used to be. I just think also you guys get a better sense of where we're at, how we're feeling. Especially from somebody probably who's not talking so much, you know, you get much more from the expressions. Maybe with me it works. I'm not sure. You have to answer that question.

Q. I would like to know, what was the tougher thing you had to do for this return? And also the easier thing, maybe something you really, really enjoyed to do but that makes possible your return?

ROGER FEDERER: Well, look, it's been a long time. I had to really -- well, like you see in this match, for instance, two hours 20 or maybe more than that, you have to be able to play that. If you cannot play for two-and-a-half hours, you cannot come back. So it's that simple. I think a lot of questions are being asked and you have to test yourself in practice.

The other thing obviously is that -- well, nobody is going to do the running for you. So you have to do it yourself, and I think that in tennis gets underestimated a little bit. That cannot be substituted. Only me, I can jump and run. If I don't run, I'm not going to win any more points. It's in a simple. You can't just start slapping winners left and right especially as long as I haven't played.

Overall I'm really happy, very pleased. There are a lot of things I can still improve on, but overall I'm incredibly happy how I played. I said it before the tournament, you know, regardless of the outcome, if I lose 6-2, 6-2, I'm equally happy than sitting here 7-5 in the third, really it is, because it's been over 400 days I haven't been on a tennis court, so it's been a long time.

And like I explained before, I don't even remember certain things anymore, with the towels and the rules and all that stuff. So I have to get used to it. That's why it's probably nice to play another match tomorrow.

Q. One thing you did during your time away from tour, which surprised a lot of people, was you one day tweeted that you wanted the ATP and WTA to combine forces sort of out of nowhere, and Rafa quickly echoed that and sort of endorsed that idea. Curious, was that idea out of nowhere and how has that thought gone? How has it endured over the past several months? Is there any progress on that, is it possible? Where did the idea come from and where has it gone?

ROGER FEDERER: Look, I mean, I said it. I talked to Andrea about it. I also spoke to Steve Simon. I don't know, for some reason it just felt like they were not quite ready yet as they were focusing so much on the pandemic, which I get.

There is now, how do you say, they are getting together on certain issues, as we know. I don't know if it's marketing and other things. You know, they are combining their power, which I think is a good thing.

So I hope I was able to start something, even though I think they were going to come together and get closer to one another anyhow.

I still believe it will be beneficial for both tours to be together, in all honesty, but I feel like it's been put a little bit on the back burner, you know, which, yes, it's a little bit unfortunate maybe, but at the same time I respect that, but I hope we can take up that conversation again with the ATP and see if it wouldn't be a possibility after all, because it will need some compromises on either side, and I truly believe it would be a great thing for our sport.

Q. You did speak about it's better to have some people on the court, spectators on the court, rather than zero. How did it actually feel? What was the feeling like? There were spectators but not full. They were still there sharing. What was the feeling like?

ROGER FEDERER: I really hardly understood... Try it one more time loud enough.

Q. You did say at the press conference that it's better to have some spectators rather than no spectators at all. How did it feel actually on the court? Did you feel them? What was the feeling like?

ROGER FEDERER: I mean, it felt good, you know. Yeah, I mean, my last game was 52,000 people in Cape Town. I know it's not the measuring stick, or the Australian Open walking out to the semis. When I walked out, it's like, Nice to see the people again. Not as loud as I'm used to sometimes, but I know from TV it could be nothing.

So that's why I am incredibly grateful that I was able to play on my return in front of somebody and the fans were good. They were into it. They also, like any tennis match, the spectators always wait for that spark, that moment, that shot, that interaction with you. I feel like as the match wore on and in the breaker they were really getting into it.

I think there was a lot of open questions for everybody to know how am I going to play, how am I going to feel, how competitive can I be?

But I thought the experience was a good one. You know, after a while I didn't even feel anymore that there was maybe less people than normal in the stadium, because you're in the zone and it went very well for me, and I'm very appreciative for everybody who came out to support tennis tonight.

Q. You were talking about the nerves at the beginning and how much you enjoyed it, but then when you get deep in the third set, is part of you like, Okay, now I have to sort of find something now to try to finish the match when it really could have maybe gone either way at the end?

ROGER FEDERER: I mean, I really thought it could have gone either way. I think Dan had his chances, and like I explained before, I had to change my game a little bit.

I had to look for the way forward. Even though it takes extra effort and extra energy and everything, mental, it can tire you more mentally because you know you have to do it otherwise it's going to be difficult.

Dan has a very nice way to stay in his point with his slice obviously. He frustrates a lot of the players that way. I was hitting the ball good enough to be dangerous against him, especially off his second serve. If only sometimes off a good return I could be more dangerous in that second and third shot, if I can improve that, I think maybe I could have maybe run away with the match sooner.

But credit to him. I thought he served well for some time and he produced what I expected him to produce, and he made me come up with some good shot making at the end. Of course I tried to also cut down on the length of the rallies sometimes, but also because I told myself you've got to stay aggressive. Well, I started really using the backhand down the line more which I didn't use that much early on, and then, you know, just tried to attack his backhand, do that with variety and also maybe start using the chip slice again on the return a little bit more, because I didn't do that as well in the first one-and-a-half to two sets. I just felt that was a thing I hadn't used yet, so I wanted to try it out and it seemed to have worked at the very end.

I think it was good to have several tools still left in the box for the very end of the match.

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