Paris (AFP)

After thirteen months of hiatus and two operations on his right knee, Roger Federer will return to competition at the beginning of March at the Doha tournament, with the ambition of "winning more headlines", even at nearly forty years old.

"For the first time, I have the feeling that my knee is ready for competition again," Federer told Swiss radio SRF on Tuesday.

A reassuring statement, when his little sentence uttered in mid-December last, when receiving the trophy for best Swiss sportsman of the last 70 years, had on the contrary made people tremble.

"I hope I will return to the circuit in 2021. But if my career had to end there, it would be incredible to end it with this award", then dropped the Balois, operated twice on the right knee in four months, between February and June 2020, and away from the courts since.

"The next three months will be crucial," he continued, before signing his package for the Australian Open at the end of December, even delayed by three weeks by health constraints.

Federer finally chose the ATP 250 tournament in Doha, scheduled for March 8 to 13, to return to the circuit.

An event obviously much less serious than a Grand Slam.

"It was important, for my team as for me, that it was a small tournament and not a big one, with all the stress that that implies", he justifies.

- "Ready for a long and difficult road" -

Never has Federer known such a long break in more than twenty years of career.

His longest break before, six months between July 2016 and January 2017, had followed a first arthroscopy undergone in February 2016, but in the left knee.

She had been particularly successful, since he had triumphed at the Australian Open upon his return, then at Wimbledon six months later.

How will he respond this time, him whose last tournament dates back to January 2020 (Australian Open, defeat in the semi-final against Djokovic)?

The Swiss with twenty Grand Slam trophies - like his great rival Rafael Nadal now - does not return without ambition.

And don't close the door to the clay, which he avoided in 2017 and 2018.

"I still want to land big titles, and I'm ready to take a long and hard road to get there," says Federer, who makes Wimbledon, Tokyo Olympics - only singles gold still missing from his record - and the US Open, its priorities.

But "I will still try to play on clay," he adds.

At six months of celebrating his fortieth birthday, motivation is not lacking, and tennis continues to thrill him.

"I have invested a lot in my rehabilitation in recent months, but I did it with pleasure," says Federer.

"With my kids and the rehabilitation, I thought I was busy but I continued to follow the results and watch matches. Which I don't normally do when I'm not in a tournament. It surprised me," he recounts.

However, no question of mortgaging his post-career.

“I would like to be able to ski with the kids and Mirka (his wife), hike, play basketball, or even start ice hockey. For that, I need to be in good physical condition, says Federer. have no desire to go into the wall. "

© 2021 AFP