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A lower ranking could impede Federer in Australia.

The tennis world received what it so badly desired at last week’s Hopman Cup: Roger Federer’s return.

Sidelined since Wimbledon because of problems with his surgically repaired left knee, Federer’s first taste of action in nearly six months offered signs of encouragement. While showing a few expected signs of rust, overall he looked sharp and agile.

In singles, Federer picked up a pair of wins over Daniel Evans and Richard Gasquet, the latter a 6-1, 6-4 destruction common of the ones he served out in his glory days. A three-set loss to teenage star Alexander Zverev denied him a perfect week, but Federer picked up valuable match preparation (even if they were exhibitions) for the Australian Open.

Along with that trio of singles performances, Federer also played doubles with Belinda Bencic in Perth. His body withstood it all, alleviating some of the doubts surrounding his health.

“I am surprised how well I am playing,” Federer told The Australian‘s Courtney Walsh. “I couldn’t be more happy right now.”

Melbourne offers a more imposing situation. Ranked 17th, Federer’s draw could prove tricky to navigate as he’ll face the top seeds sooner.

He’ll also be playing best-of-five-set matches, something he hasn’t done since last summer. While looking fresh at the Hopman Cup, extended time on the court in the Australian heat is a difficult proposition considering his layoff.

As he rounds back into form, Federer faces a stiff test but one that should prepare him well for the rest of the season.

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