Roger Federer during his quarter-final match of the Qatar Open against Nikoloz Basilashvili on Thursday. Reuters
Roberto Bautista Agut ended the 20-match winning streak of Andrey Rublev at ATP 500 events on Friday to reach the Qatar Open final.
The fifth-seeded Spaniard, who captured the 2019 title, extended his winning run in Doha to nine matches with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over third seed Rublev in 74 minutes.
Rublev, who was playing his first match of the week after two consecutive walkovers, had lifted trophies at his past four ATP 500 tournaments, including the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament (d. Fucsovics) last week.
FEDERER WITHDRAWS FROM DUBAI: Roger Federer on Thursday withdrew from next week’s Dubai ATP tournament, claiming “it’s best to go back to training” as his comeback from 13 months on the sidelines ended after two matches at the Qatar Open.
The 39-year-old was knocked out of the Doha event by world number 42 Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia, squandering a match point in the deciding set.
“It’s been great to be back on the @atptour, loved every minute playing in Doha once again,” tweeted the 20-time Grand Slam title winner.
“A big thank you to the best and loyal team that helped me get here. I’ve decided it’s best to go back to training and as a result, I’ve decided to withdraw from Dubai next week.”
Federer underwent two knee surgeries last year and was playing his first tournament since a semi-final loss to Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open in January 2020.
He had needed three sets to see off Britain’s Dan Evans in his first match in Qatar on Wednesday.
Federer has already said he will skip the opening Masters event of the season in Miami later this month.
That would likely mean the Swiss veteran will play again on the European clay court swing which begins in April.
AIMING TO BE 100% BY WIMBLEDON: Federer admitted his goal was to be “100 percent” back in business by the time Wimbledon rolls around.
“I might be better earlier, that would be a bonus and that means I’m at 100 percent before Wimbledon,” said Federer when asked if he was targeting the All England Club because that was the earliest he anticipated being back at full strength.
“I’ll just see how much workload the body and the knee still take and what’s the best way to prepare all the way for basically the beginning of the season for me, which is the grass court season.”
Federer has won eight of his 20 majors at Wimbledon. He was agonisingly close to a ninth in 2019 when he had two championship points in an epic five-set final loss to Djokovic.
“I’ve come from so far away that I’m actually happy that I was able to play back-to-back three set matches against top players,” said Federer, a former world number one now down at six in the rankings.
“That’s an important step forward for me.
“I know that I’m still building up, this is a stepping stone.”
Looking ahead, Federer also said that he had not taken decisions on tournaments before Wimbledon or the Tokyo Olympics but hinted that he would likely be at Roland Garros.
“What comes before the grass courts are the clay courts. So from that standpoint, I have no choice but to play on clay if I want to play matches,” he added.
“It could be good for me, the clay. It could be bad for me, the clay. So I will only know in practice, but I don’t think it’s going to be bad, to be honest.”
Earlier Thursday, Federer’s long-time rival Rafael Nadal, also the holder of 20 majors, said he had turned down a wild card invitation to the Dubai event as he recovers from a back injury.
MURRAY TOO TO SKIP DUBAI: Andy Murray will not play in next week’s Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships after his wife Kim Sears gave birth to their fourth child.
It is understood the 33-year-old Scot, still on the comeback trail following hip surgery two years ago, felt he would not have had enough preparation time for the tournament.
Instead Murray will travel to the US early next week to prepare for the Miami Open, which begins the following Monday. The former world No 1 is expected to receive a wild card to play in Miami.