PARIS • Roger Federer reckoned he felt the love of the French public sweep over him after he made a long-awaited return to competitive action in Paris on Thursday to launch his bid for a 100th career title.
The Swiss, who has not competed at either the French Open or the Paris Masters since 2015, received a standing ovation after making a winning comeback in Bercy with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Italy’s Fabio Fognini to move into the last eight.
The world No. 3 made a late decision to compete after his 99th ATP Tour title triumph in Basel last Sunday and was visibly touched by the rapturous reception from the Paris crowd.
And the 37-year-old sought to “salute” the spectators in his post-match on-court address after a reporter told him that the “French public (have) missed you very much”.
“It was wonderful to have such a welcome from the French public. The standing ovation at the end was wonderful as well. I wanted to thank them,” he said. “It was something that is important to me. I did win so I had the microphone, I could talk to the public.
“I’ve had very intense moments at the French Open (where he won in 2009) and here (as the 2011 Paris champion).
“Everybody knows that I’m very pleased to do my comeback here, but it is also hard to prove it on the court.”
Federer had originally been scheduled to return on Wednesday, but his opponent, Canada’s Milos Raonic, pulled out because of injury, leaving him to think that it was a blessing in disguise.
“It gave me an extra day of rest which I needed, because one shouldn’t have too many matches in a row,” he said, before adding that he had enjoyed “a massage and a nice dinner” instead.
The 20-time Grand Slam winner also revealed there was no pressure on him at the tournament, with his main focus on the Nov 11-18 ATP World Tour Finals in London.
“If it turns out well (this week), good. If it doesn’t, well, too bad. I tried. It’s good to play in a relaxed manner for once,” he said.
“My objective is London. If I can beat him (world No. 1 Novak Djokovic of Serbia), all the better. We’ll just wait and see.”
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