Federer has spent the last 13 months out, having elected to take 2020 off – following last year’s Australian Open – to undergo two knee operations.
The 40-year-old will compete in Doha this week, returning to play in an event where he has enjoyed plenty of success down the years, winning the tournament three times.
Last year’s US Open champion Thiem, who has moved above Federer in the world rankings during the Swiss’ absence, will also be in action in Qatar, and is thrilled to see the 20-time grand slam winner make his comeback.
“We are rivals, and of course we want to beat each other in the tournament, [but] I still really love to watch him play tennis,” said top seed Thiem, who was speaking to Laureus Sport after his nomination for Breakthrough of the Year.
“[He] looks so nice, the way he plays, the way he approaches the game of tennis.
“On the one hand, I’m also a big fan of his still, and that’s why I really love that he’s back and that I can watch him again. That’s what pretty much everybody is thinking, and I hope that he’s coming back strong, as well.”
Federer and Thiem have met seven times, with the Austrian holding the advantage, with five wins to his name against the former world number one.
— Dominic Thiem (@ThiemDomi) March 7, 2021
Thiem, a semi-finalist in Doha in 2018, has not played since he lost to Grigor Dimitrov at the Australian Open in mid-February, and the world number four is hoping to make a fast start when he takes on Aslan Karatsev in round two.
“The [Doha] draw is unbelievably strong, so [you] never know what’s [going to] happen, but I just try to have a good start and to be there on a good level from the very first point,” said Thiem.
“It’s going to be my first tournament and [my] first match [in almost] a month, since [a] pretty devastating loss at the Australian Open.
“I needed some time to digest everything, to analyse everything [and] to settle down a little bit. Now it’s time to focus on new things. The tournament in Doha is the first chance to play better again, to get good results, to get confidence and to forget a pretty tough start of the season.”
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