What a Roger Federer Comeback in Doha Could Mean

Roger Federer in action at the 2020 Australian Open
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There have been reports this week that Roger Federer will make his return to action in Doha, with Richard Krajicek, tournament director at the Rotterdam Open, suggesting that Federer could play at the ATP 250 Qatar Open, which runs from 8th to 13th March.

Krajicek stated – ‘I think I know he will play in Doha, the week after Rotterdam. But if he’s fit and ready to play, we’ll hear from him’. The Swiss has not played a tour-level match since the Australian Open after undergoing knee surgery, but a potential Doha return could well be a good move for the Swiss.

Advantageous conditions

Historically, the courts at the Qatar Open have been amongst the fastest on the ATP Tour and Federer’s attacking game is well-suited to these conditions. A quick court surface enables him to go for winners from the baseline early in rallies, and by keeping the points short, Federer can preserve his physical fitness and deny opponents rhythm. This should allow him to play at a high level throughout the tournament and following events.

Unsurprisingly, Federer’s success on faster courts has been extensive. Quicker conditions also help him to play with more tactical variation, particularly by catching players off-guard by coming forward and finishing points at the net. The faster court speeds reduce the time for opponents to react to his volley, making it harder for them to attempt a passing shot and neutralise Federer’s aggressive move forward.

A faster court also aids his serve, increasingly the bedrock of his game, with the speed of the court combined with Federer’s remarkable placement often guaranteeing plenty of aces and some very short service games from the Swiss star.

Professional tennis players have to contend with varied and often intense weather conditions across the world. But Federer should feel at home in the Doha heat as he maintains a training base in Dubai. Indeed, Federer was seen training there last month and has been practising in Dubai for over a decade. With Doha and Dubai separated by less than 240 miles across the Persian Gulf, playing in Doha should give Federer the chance to settle back into the tour among familiar conditions he can cope well with.

Match-experience for further titles

Playing in Doha could be the perfect choice to set Federer up for the remainder of the season. Training is of course useful, but players require match experience  to give them the best chance at having deep runs in tournaments. For one thing, without matches, players aren’t exposed to the mental pressures of competition. Retaining a level of competitiveness, or fighting off nerves, becomes a harder task when prize money, ranking points and titles aren’t up for grabs.

But by playing a relatively small tournament, Federer will give himself the chance to ease back into the competitive mindset, which should, in the long run, give him the best chance to win key titles down the line. There are plenty of important tournaments just around the corner, including his favoured Dubai Tennis Championships, an ATP 500 tournament, and the Miami Open, set to be the first Masters 1000 event of the year. Both are scheduled to be played in the same month as Doha.

Federer’s potential Doha entry seems to be good news for his game and for tennis. Making a comeback in heat that he’s trained for and on a court that suits his aggressive style should give Federer a welcome boost. And getting matches under his belt should also increase his chances of winning significant titles down the line, making the remainder of the 2021 season a very exciting prospect.

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