TORONTO -- After winning the first match he had played in more than a month, Roger Federer reclined in a snow-white track suit emblazoned with his initials and tried to explain what it was he still wanted to accomplish in his career.
The 29-year-old is no longer the king of men's tennis, but he remains royalty, proving his class again at the Rogers Cup on Tuesday night. Federer dispatched Argentine challenger Juan Ignacio Chela with a 7-6, 6-3 win on centre court.
"There's many things I'd like to do, but I'm not going to say my career is incomplete if I don't get to it," Federer said. "I'd love to win another 10 Wimbledons, another five French Opens, an Olympic gold in London, a Davis Cup and whatever -- you name it."
Federer's appearance on the court at Rexall Centre marked his first competitive game since his quarter-final loss at Wimbledon earlier this summer. It came a month after another early exit at the French Open that ended his remarkable run of 23 consecutive appearances in the semifinal round of a major tournament.
He is ranked No. 3 on the ATP World Tour, and has made Toronto his first step in an attempted climb back to No. 1.
Federer allowed Chela back into the first set Tuesday night before prevailing in the tiebreaker. He was not as generous in the second set, which lasted 34 minutes.
"I thought it was a good match, overall," he said. "It's always nice to come back after six weeks and get the win. I think that's what counts the most tonight. It's normal that you're a bit rusty after six weeks."
His victory is also a boon for the event promoters, who can still dream of seeing Federer face world No. 1 Rafael Nadal in the final. Nadal will play his first match in the singles draw Wednesday.
The tournament lost one big name on Tuesday when it was announced American Andy Roddick had withdrawn with an undisclosed illness. The eighth seed will be replaced by France's Paul-Henri Mathieu in the main draw of the US$2.43-million event at York University.
Tomas Berdych was among the other big-name winners on Tuesday, dispatching Sergiy Stakhovsky in straight sets, 6-2, 6-4, on centre court. Berdych was the man who dispatched Federer at Wimbledon, but he is also a player who has become known almost as much for his defeats as for his victories this year.
The 24-year-old lost in the semifinal round at the French Open, and followed that with a loss to Nadal in the Wimbledon final a month later. And, after winning his first match on Tuesday, he said he would not trade either experience.
"These are the best moments," he said. "If you have money, you can buy whatever you want, but these -- the memories from the tennis -- are really nice. This is the reason why you are doing this sport."
Berdych, ranked No. 7 on the ATP World Tour, has won five singles titles over his career, but none this year.
"I wouldn't change it for anything," he said. "I was really sad that it didn't happen in Wimbledon, because there was really something special, that I'd never been in a Grand Slam final."
Federer, on the other hand, has won more Grand Slam events than any man in tennis. He has won 16 over his remarkable career, claiming 62 singles titles over a stretch that has also included an uninterrupted four-year run at No. 1.
He is still adjusting to life at No. 3.
"I look at what I've achieved in my career, what I still want to achieve and what I've done the last few weeks to get prepared again to hopefully get to a higher playing level," Federer said. "Rankings are what they are. You can't control them that much unless you win tournaments, and that's not what I've been doing lately."
Not a bad start for Roger a bit shaky at times but that's understandable.
I think having a coach is already proving to be quite beneficial for him. Many people have already noticed some subtle differences in his play.
He's coming forward to the net a lot more then I remember. Which is good, in recent years he's gotten too used to playing on the baseline out hitting the guys.
Let's see how the rest of the tournament plays out before I make any more comments on his game.
I just have to add this. The pink shirt?. The brown pants?. So not flattering. I would rather he went back to his standard blue, or red.
Here's hoping that's the case at the U.S. Open in a few weeks.