INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AP) – Roger Federer is returning to the ATP Tour after a six-week absence due to back problems, and as has been his habit in recent years, he’ll do so without a full-time coach.

Federer, a 13-time Grand Slam champion, hasn’t played on tour since his five-set loss to top-ranked Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open final Feb. 1.

He had been scheduled to play in a tournament in Dubai and in the opening round of Davis Cup before arriving in California for the BNP Paribas Open. Instead, he took that time off to rest and give Darren Cahill of Australia an audition for the job of full-time coach.

“After I decided not to play those two events I thought it would be a good time for a test,” said Federer, a three-time champion of this event at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. “He (Cahill) came over to Dubai and we worked a bit and we decided we’re not going to do it, so we’re moving on.

“It was a test. We said let’s see how it goes first and go back and think about it. He thought it was tough for him to do the traveling with his kids and everything. It never really got to the point where I had to think too far and make a decision on my own. I never really had to go there. He took the decision for me.”

Federer, who began having serious back problems late last year but kept playing, did have to make a decision on whether to play Dubai and the Davis Cup first round against the U.S.

He said the debate there was “am I going to keep on playing with a little bit of pain and maybe make it really worse, or have a rest and be sure I’m able to play the next six months without a problem?

“It was a tough decision. It’s a priority for me to look at the long-term. It’s my goal to play for many more years. It was a tough decision. I know I let some people down. I felt after the U.S. Open and the Olympics that the schedule was good enough that I could play Davis Cup so I announced it, then the back problem occurred.”

Federer, 27, is the No. 2 seed in this 96-player event and Nadal is No. 1, so the possibility exists for yet another final round meeting between the two men whose rivalry has produced some scintillating matches.

Federer said in the most recent meeting in Australia he thought he “played a great match for four and a half sets” before fading.

Nadal also had beaten Federer in the finals of the French Open and Wimbledon in 2008 and the Spanish left-hander holds a 13-6 edge over the Swiss star. But Federer is eager to try again.

“I’ve got the motivation,” he said. “I don’t know how much better he can play or how much better I can play, but I’m right there and he’s playing the tennis of his life. I think for me that’s a good sign. He’s the greatest challenge I’ve ever had.”

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