Roger Federer showed no signs of rust in his first competitive match for six months when he outclassed Dan Evans 6-3 6-4 at the Hopman Cup on Monday.
The 17-times grand slam winner underwent knee surgery in February and, after missing the French Open with a back injury, announced in July that he needed extensive rehabilitation and would be sidelined for the rest of the season.
Federer walked out to a standing ovation from more than 13,500 fans at the Perth Arena and breezed to an easy win over Evans, putting Switzerland 1-0 ahead in their match against Britain in the mixed team event.
“The standing ovation coming in, it was very special. I’m here now enjoying and looking forward to the week of course,” the 35-year-old said in a courtside interview.
Asked what keeps him going, Federer said; “I guess it depends also on how you get hurt. I got hurt filling up a bath for my children. It’s not really the way I wanted to leave this game.” The former world number one, who has slipped to 16th in the rankings, said he enjoyed the time out but had started to miss tennis.
“You can’t be more happy to return back on a Centre Court, taping your ankles, tying your shoes and walking out and getting that kind of welcome,” he said. Federer has not won a grand slam title since Wimbledon in 2012.
“It would be nice to win another one, of course I’d even take two-three-four,” he said. “It’s tough at the top. A lot of good guys are there right now, a lot of young guys are coming up too. The gap’s definitely not very big but I gave it chance. Let’s see what happens.”
The 35-year-old will partner former world No.7 Belinda Bencic for mixed doubles on January 6 in Perth.
Like Federer, Bencic’s 2016 campaign was blighted by injuries, with wrist and back issues seeing her slide down to 43 in the WTA rankings.
Switzerland are the favourites to win the Hopman Cup, and Federer said he was excited to team up with Bencic.
“She’s an up and coming star. She’s had a tough year herself as well, injuries this year. I hope for both of us this next year is going to be much better,” Federer said.
“She’s very talented, and hard working. I don’t know her that well yet, but after this week all that’s going to change.”