Roger Federer at Miami Open after knee surgery: ‘Expectations really low’

Third-ranked Roger Federer spoke to the Miami Open media Thursday for the first time in two years, and more importantly, for the first time since undergoing arthroscopic surgery Feb. 3 to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee.

He looked refreshed after sitting out of tennis since he lost to world No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open semifinal in late January. Tennis aficionados were surprised when Federer announced last month that he would return to Key Biscayne so soon after surgery.

Federer skipped last year’s Miami Open to concentrate on the then-upcoming clay season. He has a 44-13 record in Miami and plays his opening match in the third Stadium Court day match Friday against 2009 U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro, who won his initial match late Wednesday against fellow Argentine Guido Pella.

He warned, however, that the health of his knee is paramount now.

“If I feel something [Friday],’’ Federer said. “I won’t play. It’s very simple. Expectations are really low, which is nice for a change.’’

The winner of 17 Grand Slams and consecutive Miami Opens in 2005 and 2006, the 34-year-old Swiss superstar nonetheless said he was happy to be back.

“I’m just really pleased that I’m here,” Federer said. “Couldn’t be more happy how rehab has gone. It’s baby steps. Still, at the same time, you go from crutches to walking to running to jumping to sprinting. It’s pretty incredible to see the progress I’ve been able to make in a short period of time.’’

Federer said it was his first surgery, and that he was on crutches for about 12 days. “Full training, no restrictions whatsoever probably a week ago, nine days ago. Not wanting to overdo it, but also pushing it so I knew I could play three-hour matches and all that.

“Also, a lot of testing, making sure the knee does hold up.’’

He said he injured the knee the day after the Australian Open while he went “to run a bath” for his two daughters. “I made a very simple movement, turned back, heard a click in my knee. Went to the zoo. My leg was swollen.

“Came back and had an MRI done in Switzerland. Saw a doctor right after the MRI. He said I had to have surgery on Tuesday. I did that in Switzerland.”

“… When I woke up I kind of looked at my knee — it doesn’t feel like my leg. I hope it will come back from here. That’s when I got scared. Then, literally one day, two days later, I had no more pain. I realized I could already move my leg again.

“… Then honestly, it sounds weird, but I kind of enjoyed the process of improving every day. Enjoyed everything about it, being there, away from the tour, time with my family. It was a really nice process.”

Susan Miller Degnan: 305-376-3366, @smillerdegnan

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