Federer’s Return Ended As Basilashvili Saves M.P. In Doha

Georgian to face Fritz for final spot

Nikoloz Basilashvili recovered from a set down on Thursday to end Roger Federer’s comeback appearance at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha.

The Georgian played with consistent aggression from the baseline to rush Federer and earn a 3-6, 6-1, 7-5 victory. Basilashvili saved seven of 10 break points, including a match point at 4-5 in the decider, to clinch victory after one hour and 50 minutes.

“It is unbelievable. He is one of the greatest of all time,” Basilashvili said in an on-court interview. “To just play him means so much to me. I am really happy that he came back and is playing again. To win against him is a dream come true for me. He was always my idol and I am sure he is to many tennis players and fans. He is an unbelievable player, so I am extremely happy.”

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Basilashvili entered the tournament on a five-match losing streak but, with his first ATP Head2Head win against Federer (tied at 1-1), the 29-year-old is through to his first semi-final since the 2019 Hamburg European Open.

Federer was attempting to reach his seventh Doha semi-final. The second seed was making his first tournament appearance since the 2020 Australian Open this week. Federer, who underwent two right knee surgeries in 2020, claimed a 7-6(8), 3-6, 7-5 victory in his return match on Wednesday against Daniel Evans.

"I'm happy [with] how I played today. I'm happy [with] how I did yesterday," said Federer. "I'm happy I [am] back on the Tour. I'm pleased I came here to Doha. So it's really, really a positive return for me. I'm really happy."

The World No. 42 will face Taylor Fritz for a place in the championship match. The American outlasted fourth seed Denis Shapovalov 5-7, 6-3, 7-5 to reach his first semi-final of 2021.

Federer stood on top of the baseline and struck multiple forehand winners to earn his first break point of the match in the fourth game. As he did to close his match with Evans, Federer ripped a backhand down the line to convert his opportunity. The Swiss maintained his lead to serve for the set at 5-3, and he clinched a love service hold with an ace out wide.

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Basilashvili ripped his returns and guided a backhand past Federer at the net to gain an early break in the second set. The Georgian then fired powerful serves and came to the net to escape a 0/40 position on serve to consolidate his advantage. Basilashvili soon added a second break and clinched the set with a cross-court backhand winner.

For the second straight match, Federer was forced to save break points at 3-3 in the decider. It almost proved to be the crucial moment, but Basilashvili held his nerve at 4-5, 30/40 to save match point with a strong forehand approach shot. The 29-year-old then played with all-out aggression on his backhand to turn the match decisively in his favour. Basilashvili took the shot up the line on multiple occasions to break serve and ripped the stroke cross-court to convert his third match point.

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