World No 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas has claimed that it may be a while before Roger Federer returns to his best after the Swiss star announced his withdrawal from next week’s ATP 500 event in Dubai. The 39-year-old made his long-awaited comeback on Wednesday at the Qatar Open after spending the vast majority of 2020 on the treatment table following two knee operations.
His first appearance back on the court ended with a win as he took more than two hours to down British contender Dan Evans, before falling to defeat at the hands of Nikoloz Basilashvili at the quarter-final stage a day later.
Federer previously claimed that he was aiming to recapture his best form ahead of Wimbledon in the summer, when he is scheduled to make a return to the Grand Slam circuit.
He has also named Olympic participation in Tokyo as a major goal, with the Games set to kick off in July after being pushed back by a year amid the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tsitsipas, who has beaten Federer twice in his professional career, believes that the Basel-born star needs more practice in order to stand any chance of success later in the season.
The 22-year-old has claimed that although Federer’s comeback has provided a much-needed boost to the sport, he is not yet the finished article and should look to keep improving in order to fight for silverware once again.
“He played well [against Basilashvili], although he lost,” said Tsitsipas after beating Lucas Pouille in Marseille on Thursday.
“I think for him it’s important to get a few more matches. Eventually I feel like he is going to get back on his feet and find his way, follow through.
“It just takes a few matches more, but I’m really happy for him that he’s back. It brings not just joy to the tennis community, but to the tennis players, too.
“Roger is also a source of inspiration. I think it helps also with many aspects of my game.
“It’s nice seeing him play so I can kind of compare, although I’ll never be able to reach his level.
Tsitsipas recently leapfrogged Federer in the ATP singles rankings, with the Swiss legend now all the way down in sixth.
He posted a message to Twitter on Thursday evening, outlining his decision to snub next week’s tournament in Dubai to focus on his preparations ahead of Wimbledon.
“It’s been great to be back on the ATP Tour, [I] loved every minute playing in Doha once again,” he wrote. “A big thank you to the best and loyal team that helped me get here.
Federer’s ‘Big Three’ rival Rafael Nadal has also decided to pull out of next week’s competition, while Andy Murray will join the list of absentees after the recent birth of his fourth child.
This leaves Andrey Rublev as the favourite for the tournament, with Dominic Thiem and Stan Wawrinka among those with high hopes of troubling the Russian.
Federer’s next on-court appearance is scheduled for just two weeks before the start of Wimbledon at the Noventi Open in Germany.