What was the more surprising sight this week: Roger Federer guarding the doubles alley or Roger Federer taking the court without his trademark headband look?
Federer teamed up with good friend Tommy Haas on Monday at the Gerry Weber Open in Halle, Germany, where the veterans lost to 2010 Wimbledon champions Jurgen Melzer and Philipp Petzschner 7-6 (3), 6-3 in the first round. Federer hadn’t played doubles at an ATP tournament since he and fellow Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka made the final in Indian Wells, Calif., in 2011.
“It was the first time we ever played together. We are two dinosaurs,” the 31-year-old Federer joked of his partnership with the 35-year-old Haas. “We’re hanging in there. It was good fun and I thank him for playing. Unfortunately, it ended in the first round, but I was happy to play with Tommy.”
The tournament has been Federer’s Wimbledon lead-up of choice since 2000, and he signed a lifetime contract in 2010 to ensure his appearance every year until the end of his career. (Federer withdrew from the tournament in 2011, citing a groin injury.) Playing doubles gives him extra matches on grass as he prepares to defend his Wimbledon title. Pairing up with Haas, a German who beat Federer in last year’s singles final, obviously brings more attention to the tournament. But Federer says his decision was driven more by his light 2013 schedule.
“I haven’t played doubles in some time because I was either busy, or just having family, because of not putting more strain on the body or whatever it might have been,” he told reporters. “And sometimes it was also just that I just wasn’t in the mood to spend more time at the courts, and go through the whole ordeal of warming up, playing another match, more press conferences. All that stuff just wears you out as well sometimes.”
A heavy playing schedule over the last two years helped propel him back to No. 1 after winning Wimbledon in 2012, but this season has been different. Because of a reduced schedule and some early-round losses, Federer entered this week with 29 matches for the year. By comparison, he had played 41 matches by this point last year and 42 the year before that.
“I haven’t been that crazy busy this first six months of the year, and playing here with Tommy I thought could be exciting and that’s why we’re doing it together,” Federer said.
On Wednesday, Federer — with his headband in place again — opened his singles campaign by beating German wild card Cedrik-Marcel Stebe 6-3, 6-3. Haas is scheduled to face Ernests Gulbis in his opener Thursday.
Here are highlights from their match:
More photos from the match below.