It’s like he’s never been away. Roger Federer delighted a record-breaking crowd at the Hopman Cup as he returned to court for the first time since Wimbledon. The 17-time Grand Slam champion defeated Dan Evans 6-3 6-4 before teaming up with Belinda Bencic to seal a 3-0 whitewash in the tie against Great Britain.
Speculation has been rife about the kind of form the 35-year-old would be in following his six months off the circuit. Federer was quick to reassure his fans with a hugely encouraging display. There was no signs of rustiness and Federer’s free-flowing movement suggests that knee trouble is a thing of the past.
Roger Federer Shines on Return From Injury Layoff
Great Britain’s Dan Evans was more than holding his own against his Swiss opponent until the sixth game when he was broken. From there Roger Federer strolled relatively comfortably through the first set, demonstrating his versatility along the way.
Buoyed by his first set display, Federer broke in the opening game of the second set to take an early lead. With confidence clearly flowing he was determined to put on a show for the Perth crowd. A Monfils-eske jump smash brought the delighted locals to their feet in the fourth game of the set. He also had time to dust off the old SABR (sneak attack by Roger) in the penultimate game of the match.
— doublefault28 (@doublefault28) January 2, 2017
After his Hopman Cup partner – Belinda Bencic – defeated Heather Watson in a close three-set encounter, the two teamed up for mixed doubles. In a highly entertaining and good-spirited match, the Swiss duo rolled away 4-0 4-1 winners to lead their group after the first round of fixtures.
To have Roger Federer back on the ATP Tour is an unquestionable bonus for tennis globally. The very fact that 13,684 people piled into the Perth arena demonstrates the pull that Roger Federer still has. Bare in mind that a further 6,000 people turned out just to watch him practice last week.
Tonight’s attendance: 13,684
— Hopman Cup (@hopmancup) January 2, 2017
“I played well [in practice this month], struggling to find the serve but that is coming on very well.”
The tennis climate has been turbulent over the last twelve months with the absence of some of its biggest stars. Rafael Nadal missed large parts of 2016 with a wrist injury. Maria Sharapova is still serving a ban after failing a drugs test while Victoria Azarenka recently gave birth to a boy. We also lost former number one, Ana Ivanovic, to retirement just last week. To have Roger Federer back certainly brings an element of normality and steadiness back to proceedings.
His decision to ignore the main tour events and take part in the slightly more relaxed Hopman Cup was certainly a wise one. Win or lose, he is guaranteed to play at least three singles and three mixed doubles matches this week. On top of that, Evans was probably the perfect first opponent. A competent and versatile opponent but one who lacks a weapon to really trouble Roger Federer. He’ll get the benefit over the coming days of competing against Alexander Zverev and Richard Gasquet to face a further contrast of styles.
If you were to pick out one area of Federer’s that was perhaps not firing on all cylinders then the serve stands out. He may have begun the match with an ace but the consistency was lacking. Just 37% of first serves went in during the first set, a statistic that will be punished against better opposition. This was perhaps to be expected though. In an interview with The Guardian ten days ago, Federer said, “I played well [in practice this month], struggling to find the serve but that is coming on very well”.
Roger Federer will be back in action on Wednesday when Switzerland face France in the evening match.