Playing a second straight three-setter on his comeback, Roger Federer squandered a match point and was knocked out of the Qatar Open by Georgia’s Nikoloz Basilashvili on Thursday.
In what was just his second match since a 13-month injury absence, Federer felt the effects of time on court and was made to work hard by a fearless Basilashvilli. The 20-time Grand Slam title winner, who underwent two knee surgeries in 2020, secured the first set but eventually came under pressure and lost the quarter-final tie, 3-6, 6-1, 7-5.
On Wednesday, the 39-year-old marked his first match since losing to Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open semi-finals in January 2020 by defeating Britain’s Dan Evans, also in three sets.
In the third set, Federer dug deep to clinch an epic seventh game, coming back from three break points to keep the contest alive.
But after saving a match point, the 29-year-old Basilashvili broke Federer’s serve to go up 6-5, before serving out for a famous win.
“He’s one of the greatest tennis players of all time,” said world No 42 Basilashvili who will face Taylor Fritz of the United States for a place in the final.
“I’m very happy that he’s coming back and playing again. Of course to win against him it’s a dream come true. He was an idol.”
Basilashvili, who arrived at the Qatar Open with a 2-13 record since the resumption of the sport in August, managed two breaks of serve in a row in the second set, clearly unsettling the Swiss three-time Doha champion.
The third set was a closer battle but it was increasingly evident Federer was just hanging in rallies with the power his opponent was generating from the baseline and depended on his serve to bail him out. And eventually, one break of serve was all the Georgian needed to beat his idol.
In other quarter-finals, Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut knocked out Austrian top seed and US Open champion Dominic Thiem 7-6 (7/3), 2-6, 6-4.
He will next face Russia’s Andrey Rublev who made the last-four without hitting a ball.
Third seed Rublev had a first round bye which was followed by injury-enforced walkovers handed to him by Richard Gasquet and Marton Fucsovics who withdrew Thursday complaining of lower back pain.