MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Roger Federer joked that he left the locker room early on Thursday to make sure he could find the way to an unfamiliar court.
It was the first time in a decade that Federer was not given prime billing at Rod Laver Arena, the 15,000-seat center court where he had played 63 Australian Open matches in a row and won four of his 17 Grand Slam trophies.
Instead, the former No. 1-ranked player was assigned to the secondary and less prestigious Hisense Arena. It was a demotion that fans and pundits interpreted as the latest sign of Federer's decline.
But sixth-seeded Federer showed that he should not be written off just yet.
After a very bad year, Federer had a good day. He raced to a 6-2, 6-1, 7-6 (4) win over Blaz Kavcic to advance to the third round. He attacked, volleyed, served well and kept reeling off beautiful one-handed backhands, making it look graceful as he sped around the court.
An on-court interviewer congratulated Federer after the match and then asked him if he needed a GPS to find Hisense.
Federer laughed. "I was excited to be playing here. This ain't just some little side court."
He then quipped: "I came out early to make sure I didn't get lost, so I was here on time."
Thursday was a chaotic day of wacky weather at the Australian Open, where matches on outer courts were suspended several hours due to 43 degree C (109 F) temperatures. In the evening, play was paused again by a lightning storm.