Traditionally, the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha is one of the events that opens the ATP calendar each season. This year, organizers opted to move back their ATP 250 tournament to a March 8 start date when Tennis Australia needed to delay its swing of events to accommodate local COVID-19 measures.

By shifting two months, Doha has received an unexpected benefit. The long-standing tournament will now serve as the starting point for Roger Federer's return from a pair of right knee surgeries. The 20-time major champion confirmed the news in an interview with SRF Sport.

“I want to celebrate great victories again. And for that I am ready to go the long, hard road,” a translation read. “I wanted to make my comeback at a smaller tournament so that I wasn't fully in focus and where the stress is also a little less.”

Federer has not played since falling to Novak Djokovic in last year’s Australian Open semifinals. The 39-year-old admitted he’s kept up to date with the game more than anticipated during his time away from the tour.

“I actually thought that I would not follow the sport very much and would be more busy with my children and my rehab,” he said. “I was surprised that I kept checking results and watching matches. And normally I don't do that at all if I don't take part in a tournament.”

The Swiss is a three-time former champion in Doha, triumphing in 2005, 2006 and 2011. His last appearance came nine years ago, when he withdrew ahead of his semifinal with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga due to a back injury.

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Roger Federer confirms his 2021 season will begin at Doha in March

Roger Federer confirms his 2021 season will begin at Doha in March