Roger Federer said retirement was never really an option during his battle with an injury, insisting on Sunday that the pain was “completely under control” ahead of his return to competitive tennis at this week’s Qatar Open. The 39-year-old has not appeared in a match since a semi-final loss to Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open in January 2020 and admitted it was unusual for a player his age to return after a injury. “I know it is rare for a 40-year-old to return after a year of absence,” he said during a press briefing in the Qatari capital, Doha.
“The important thing is that I don’t suffer from injuries or pain.
“I’m very happy to be back at a tournament – I never thought it would take so long.”
On his rivalry with Rafael Nadal and Djokovic, who this week surpass his 310-week record as world number one in men’s tennis, Federer said “it’s a big debate to have”.
“I think what Novak and Rafa have been doing lately is amazing – they’re not 25 either,” he said with a smile.
“Novak did it in Australia, Rafa did it to the French – they seem to be in their prime, which is great for tennis and for debate.
“My concern is my own health, my own game (more) than the record.
“The guys are unreal, I hope they keep going and can do whatever they want – you want to leave the game with no regrets, and in that regard, we all sleep very well at night.”
Federer, the 20-time Grand Slam title winner, said that while “expectations are really low” for his campaign in Qatar, he hopes to surprise himself.
“Obviously I’m confident otherwise I wouldn’t put myself in this situation,” he said ahead of his first game on Tuesday or Wednesday.
“In a vision, I see myself with the trophy,” he added with a laugh.
Federer said complications following his knee surgery motivated him to get back into shape.
“What I knew was whether I came back or not, for my life I wanted to do this rehab anyway,” he said.
“I feel like there is still something – retirement was never really considered. I don’t care about rehab.
Looking ahead, Federer said he hoped to be back to “100 percent” for Wimbledon in June, but had not made a decision on tournaments until then or the Olympics.
“He’s still getting fitter, better, faster,” he said.
“I’ll see about Dubai … then we’ll see about the clay season.”
Federer said that while he was disappointed not to return to the packed house due to Qatar’s strict coronavirus containment measures, he was happy to have fans.
“I’m just happy to play again and excited to see what it’s going to feel like,” he said.
“Nobody wants it to be that way (but) anything other than zero is fine … you have passionate people out there.”
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