Roger Federer's 2021 calendar is filling up: the 39-year-old is entered to play in Dubai after his first tournament back in Doha. Federer missed this year's Australian Open as he continued to recover from a knee injury; he hasn't competed since losing in the semifinals of the 2020 Australian Open.
Doha, an ATP 250, begins on March 8 while Dubai, an ATP 250, is scheduled for the week of March 14. During this unique season, Doha and Dubai are being held during the slot usually taken up by Indian Wells, which has been postponed.
It will mark Federer's first appearance in Qatar since 2012, and his participation in Dubai will likely depend on how his body holds up in his first tournament back in over 14 months.
“It’s great to see Roger back,” Martina Navratilova said on TC Live. “It’s about time, we haven’t seen him in over a year.”
Navratilova succinctly said what everyone has been thinking.
Federer with the Dubai trophy in 2019. (Getty)
Though Doha is the smallest tier ATP event, it has long attracted an elite entry list. Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray have both won the Qatar ExxonMobile Open twice, Rafael Nadal once, and Federer has raised the golden falcon trophy on three occasions. The field is loaded with 10 members of the Top 20 including world No. 3 Dominic Thiem, defending champion Andrey Rublev, Gael Monfils, Stan Wawrinka and Denis Shapovalov.
The Dubai entry deadline was on Monday. It's also usually a star-studded affair with Djokovic winning in 2020 and Federer taking home the crown a whopping eight times, most recently in 2019.
He'll feel right at home in the desert. Doha is just a quick flight from Dubai, where he has been training during the off-season. His absence in Melbourne was quite justified as he only began hitting balls on court again in December after undergoing a second right knee surgery back in June.