Roger Federer's return to Tennis ended in the quarterfinal stage of the Qatar ExxonMobil Open against Georgian opponent Nikoloz Basilashvili. Federer's tournament run finished after as Basilashvili handed him a 3-6, 6-1, 7-5 defeat.
Federer has shown himself to be returning to form in his first tournament since undergoing two knee surgeries, even taking the first set in rather dominant fashion. Ultimately, Basilashvili saving seven of 10 break points, including a match point at 4-5 in the decider, was too much for the Swedish international to overcome.
"It is unbelievable. He is one of the greatest of all time," Basilashvili said in an on-court interview, per ATP. "To just play him means so much to me. I am really happy that he came back and is playing again. To win against him is a dream come true for me. He was always my idol and I am sure he is to many tennis players and fans. He is an unbelievable player, so I am extremely happy."
Federer, meanwhile, called the competition a "stepping stone" in his road to a full-on recovery. It was the first time he took the court in 14 months.
"I'm actually happy that I was able to play back-to-back three-set matches against top players. That's an important step forward to me," Federer said. "Like I said, I'm not 100% yet. I can feel it, I can see it. From that standpoint, (what's) important is to be 100% by the grass court season... I'm still building up. So this is a stepping stone. I'm actually happy how I felt today on court overall."
The 39-year-old wanted to make his return in the Australian Open, but his recovery was not quite at the point where he could compete at that level at the time the tournament happened.