A relaxed and jovial Roger Federer sweated out a 90-minute practice session in 30 degree temperatures Sunday in preparation for his return to the ATP World Tour at the Mercedes Cup. Federer dusted off some cobwebs and shared some laughs with practice partner Tommy Haas and the several hundred fans who turned out on the eve of the grass-court season, which begins Monday in Stuttgart and ‘s-Hertogenbosch.
Sporting a short new haircut, Federer, 35, could play Haas, 39, in the second round in Stuttgart. Typically, players prefer to practice with someone in the other half of the draw. The close friends played quickly during a number of practice games - often to the appreciative applause from fans - but didn’t rush their chats during several sit downs throughout the session.
Federer made the semi-finals in Stuttgart on debut last year, falling in three sets to Dominic Thiem. He also reached grass-court semi-finals in Halle (l. A. Zverev) and Wimbledon (l. Raonic). Federer claimed his last grass-court title in 2015 in Halle (d. Seppi), where he is an eight-time champion.
Federer returns to the ATP World Tour after a two-month rest, which saw him miss the entire clay-court season. He last played at the Miami Open, where he defeated Rafael Nadal in the final to claim his third title of the year, following victories at the Australian Open and the BNP Paribas Open. He boasts a 19-1 record on the season, with his only defeat coming against World No. 116 Evgeny Donskoy in the Dubai second round.