Roger Federer has sent tennis fans into a frenzy with his first public appearance in months.
The Swiss great was in attendance for the opening day of the Laver Cup in Boston on Friday, an event he helped set up in conjunction with Aussie legend Rod Laver.
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The annual teams event pits the best players from Europe against the best from the rest of the world in a format similar to the more traditional Davis Cup.
Team Europe have won all three Laver Cups so far but for the first time are without Federer, Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic.
All three share the men's record with 20 grand slam titles apiece but Djokovic is coming off a run to the final of the US Open, while Federer and Nadal are sitting out the remainder of the year because of injuries.
But fans were overjoyed on Friday when Federer was spotted court-side for the night session.
The 40-year-old received a standing ovation when he was shown on the big screen inside the arena.
Fans on social media were also delighted to see the 20-time grand slam champion back in the public eye for the first time since July.
So great to see @rogerfederer after his surgery. Flying in to support his team at the Laver cup after his surgery - what a class act!
— PV (@pv20202015) September 24, 2021
Thanks to him Laver Cup is interesting to watch now ❤️❤️ pic.twitter.com/LiROgAgJ3R
— Aksr❤RF🐐 (@Aksriv04) September 24, 2021
Huge almost all the spectators rise on their feets and clap... Fabulous moment @ Lavers Cup 2021. Shows RF has earned love and respect of almost everyone... This is sporting moment of next level....
— Amit Ahuja (@imamitahuja) September 24, 2021
Total legend right there! More to life than wins and losses. That man has played the game of life better than any other athlete I’ve witnessed in my lifetime.
— Andy Winebrenner (@AndyWinebrenne1) September 25, 2021
I was disappointed that Roger is not playing this Laver Cup, but NOW I’m HAPPY seeing his ELEGANT attendance even without playing!😍💙
— | HUDA | (@ARCH_HAAS) September 24, 2021
You won't see a More Loved Tennis Player Ever 🎾🐐 #Federer it's the Way he's Played the Game - the Sheer Elegance is Unparalleled - he makes it the Beautiful Game
— KSN (@Kulz83) September 24, 2021
Pure love and appreciation for Roger ❤️ good to see him enjoying it even though I’m sure he’d give anything to be playing.
— Janell Lovell (@JayFan88) September 25, 2021
Federer said in August that he would be sidelined for many months because he needed more knee surgery in order to resume playing.
The Swiss champion had two procedures in 2020 which resulted in more than a year of rehabilitation before a return to action in March.
He last played at Wimbledon in July, where he suffered a quarter-final exit which ended his dream of a record-extending ninth title at the All England Club.
"I'm feeling actually really good ... things are not as I hoped they would be, but I'm recovering well and the rehab is going really good," Federer told Eurosport last week.
"I've had no setbacks. I'm feeling strong and excited for what's to come. I wish I could be back on a tennis court as quick as possible, but I have to be patient.
"It's a slow period right now. And I got to take it step by step. And so far so good. I'm very happy."
Team Europe take early lead at Laver Cup
Matteo Berrettini, Casper Ruud and Andrey Rublev gave Team Europe a 3-1 lead over Team World to get the pandemic-delayed fourth edition of the Laver Cup underway.
Italian star Berrettini, the runner-up to Djokovic at Wimbledon in July, saved 12 of 13 break points before coming back to edge Canada's Felix Auger-Aliassime in a tie-breaker 6-7 (7-3) 7-5 10-8.
That came after Norway's Ruud broke American Reilly Opelka in their third game and again to end the opening set, on his way to a 6-3 7-6 (7-4) victory on a hard court at the arena used by the NBA's Celtics and NHL's Bruins.
During the night session, Rublev edged Diego Schwartzman in another match tie-breaker 4-6 6-3 11-9 to put Team Europe ahead 3-0, before American John Isner and Canadian Denis Shapovalov put Team World on the board by defeating Alexander Zverev and Berrettini 4-6 7-6 (7-2) 10-1 in Friday's doubles match.
— Laver Cup (@LaverCup) September 25, 2021
A team must reach 13 points to win the three-day competition. Each match victory is worth one point on Friday, two on Saturday and three on Sunday.
Opelka, whose game is built on his big serve and forehand, said afterward the setup "suits him better than me" and described it as "slow and dead."
"It's the slowest conditions I've ever played in, the combo of the court and the ball," Opelka said.
Ruud acknowledged that worked to his advantage, as did what he said were bits of sand on the court that made it slippery.
"It's fairly slow," Ruud said about the court, "and his serve, I felt, wasn't that fast today as it maybe usually is, because of the surface and also the balls, the way they get after three or four games."
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