After 12 months on the sidelines and with his rivals closing in on his records, tennis superstar Roger Federer is just happy to be back on the court.
The 39-year-old, who was forced to pull out of February's Australian Open to continue rehabbing his knee, took to Twitter to share his excitement upon boarding a plane to Doha to return to the court at the Qatar Open.
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Federer said his comeback from injury was going as planned, sparking hopes the Swiss superstar could potentially add to his 20 grand slam victories.
“I’d like to thank all the people involved who made this possible,” Federer said as he filmed himself getting ready to board a flight.
“It’s been a long and hard road, I’m not at the finish line yet but I feel I am in a good place.
“I’ve been practising very well and feel just really pumped up. I am in a good place and progressing really well.”
The Qatar open will be the first tournament Federer has contested in more than 12 months, having not played since his semi-final loss to Novak Djokovic at the 2020 Australian Open.
Djokovic has since closed in to Federer and Rafael Nadal's tied mark of 20 grand slam victories, with the Serbian's recent Australian Open triumph bringing him up to 18.
Federer is set to fall out of the top five ranking next week, with Djokovic to surpass his record for the most weeks spent at #1 in the world rankings.
Men's tour to tweak rankings, prize money
The men's professional tennis tour is increasing prize money at smaller tournaments that had 50% cuts during the coronavirus pandemic and is changing its "frozen" rankings, with the aim of restoring the traditional 52-week system by August 2022.
The ATP also announced on Wednesday that some players will be allowed to bring more than two team members to tournaments on a first-come, first-served basis, easing a restriction put in place last year because of COVID-19.
"Our tournaments' revenues continue to be severely impacted by restrictions on ticket sales, and a substantial improvement on this front looks unlikely before mid-year," ATP Chairman Andrea Gaudenzi said.
Until Wimbledon begins in June, payouts to players will be brought back to 80% of pre-pandemic levels at ATP 250 tournaments and 60% at ATP 500 tournaments.
That increase of up to $US5.2 million ($A6.7 million) mostly will be funded by taking money out of a bonus pool that is distributed to the top dozen players at season's end.
Tweaks to the way the ATP rankings are calculated will allow players to count either 50% of points earned at events from March-August 2019 that were not held in 2020 because of the sport's pandemic hiatus or 100% of points at those events in 2021, whichever is better.
The plan is to have the regular system - where full points are accrued and then drop off a player's standing after 52 weeks - begin this August, with the rankings completely back to normal a year later.
A new "COVID-19 Protected Ranking" will help players who miss four consecutive weeks still get access to tournament draws via a "frozen" ranking, but it will not apply to grand slams or the summer Olympics.
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