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Updated: January 16, 2014 18:41 IST

Federer wins in unfamiliar territory in Melbourne

AP
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Roger Federer of Switzerland plays a forehand return to Blaz Kavcic of Slovenia during their second round match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne on Thursday. Photo: AP
Roger Federer of Switzerland plays a forehand return to Blaz Kavcic of Slovenia during their second round match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne on Thursday. Photo: 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 centre 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.”

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.

But Federer was removed from it all. He practiced on an indoor court and then played his match under the roof at Hisense, which was closed after the Extreme Heat Policy took effect.

“I never actually experienced the heat today,” said Federer, who dispatched of the 99-ranked Kavcic in straight sets.

Last year was Federer’s first year without a Grand Slam final appearance since 2002. It was also the first time he finished outside the top 5 since 2002. He’s now ranked No. 6.

Federer says he’s now relieved of the back problems that dogged his 2013 campaign and contributed to his second-round exit at Wimbledon.

Federer said he feels the confidence to take more chances on the court, which showed in his second-round match.

“I was overly aggressive at times, but I’d rather be that than overly passive,” Federer said. “In terms of fitness, I feel great. I feel very healthy. It’s a big difference from six months ago.”

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Roger Federer doesn't have to prove anything to anyone. It doesn't matter whether he plays in RLA or Hisense, he is the crowd favorite. It's a hectic draw for him, with all tough matches from 4th round onwards. It's quite possible that Roger could lose early. As a die hard fan of Roger Federer, I would be delighted if he could defend his points at least at AO. For that he needs to beat probably Joe Tsonga and Andy Murray back to back, and it's not that easy

from:  Harish Babu
Posted on: Jan 17, 2014 at 12:41 IST
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