Federer relieved to win in comeback following knee surgery

Swiss player Roger Federer plays a return to Guillermo Garcia Lopez of Spain during their match of the Monte Carlo Tennis Masters tournament in Monaco, Tuesday, April 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau)
AP

MONACO (AP) A relieved Roger Federer cruised to victory at the Monaco Masters on Tuesday in his first match in more than two months following a knee operation that left him fearing for his playing career.

Beating Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 6-3, 6-4 in the second round is nothing special for a 17-time Grand Slam champion with 88 career titles. But it was more about relief than anything else for Federer, who had arthroscopic surgery on Feb. 3 for torn cartilage in his left knee.

Casting his mind back to the hours following his operation, Federer recalled his feelings – which were a mixture of the rational and irrational.

''When I woke up and I looked at the knee I got the impression that it wasn't my leg,'' the Swiss star said. ''I was in a bit of pain as well, and that's the moment when I became quickly afraid what would happen next.

''That's when you realize, that if you want to be a professional player, you need to be able to go flat out.''

Added to the worry of the first operation of his career at the advanced age of 34, Federer also went under general anesthetic for the first time in his life, having previously had only a local anesthetic when he had wisdom teeth removed.

''I was scared before the operation and I was scared after the operation,'' Federer said. ''I was scared when I was on crutches, then when I was walking differently on crutches, then walking in the stairs, then walking without the crutches. It's like taking a step forward each time, like being a kid.''

Despite the previous fears, Federer is totally confident that his knee will hold up.

''My doctor told me `Look, now you're healed you can really go for it.' If there is any fear left in my mind then it comes from me,'' he said. ''But there is no pain left and that's incredibly reassuring. I think now it's a case of how the knee is going to feel after three games?' But I'm not too scared about that because I've really pushed things in training.''

Federer hadn't played since losing to top-ranked Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open semifinals in late January.

''I was very excited and tense,'' said Federer, who was scheduled to play at the Miami Masters two weeks ago but pulled out because of a stomach virus. ''It was a perfect match, because it was close in the beginning and then I could go on a roll.''

In sunny conditions, Federer looked untroubled before a rare blip saw him broken at love, when serving for the match at 5-2. But he concluded his straight-set victory by winning his next service game.

After Andy Murray had overcome some sloppy serving to beat Pierre-Hugues Herbert 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 in his second-round match, Federer looked sharp whenever he came to the net.

''I could go freely,'' said Federer, who plays either No. 14 Roberto Bautista Agut or Jeremy Chardy in the third round on Thursday.

Federer geed himself up with a shout of `Come on' when he broke for a 2-1 lead in the second, then went up a gear when he broke Garcia-Lopez to love in the fifth game and then opened with an ace in the sixth.

His form briefly stalled in the eighth game, when he was broken to love, but he clinched victory when Garcia-Lopez failed to return a stinging backhand down the line.

Murray, the tournament's No. 2, sounded worried after his match.

''The consistency has not been there, maybe not as sharp as I could be mentally. Concentration's not been so good,'' said Murray, who next plays either Joao Sousa or No. 16 Benoit Paire. ''That's something that, especially on this surface, needs to be better – because on grass you can get away with hitting a couple of big serves and the point's over.''

Eighth-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga won 7-6 (1), 7-6 (5) against Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta, and No. 15 Gilles Simon also advanced to the third round with a 6-4, 6-3 win against Grigor Dimitrov.

In first-round play, No. 11 David Goffin of Belgium broke Feliciano Lopez's serve five times in a 7-5, 6-0 win.

There were also wins for Jiri Vesely, Teymuraz Gabashvili, Pablo Cuevas, Philipp Kohlschreiber, Fernando Verdasco, Taro Daniel, Damir Dzumhur, Paolo Lorenzi and Sousa.

Vesely faces defending champion Djokovic on Wednesday.

Djokovic has reached 19 finals in the past 21 tournaments, winning 15, and is also in Federer's half of the draw.