London: The sun finally came out at Wimbledon on Thursday and eight-time champion Roger Federer got his old sparkle back on Centre Court to eclipse Richard Gasquet and move serenely into round three.
It was not quite vintage Federer, but the 7,500 fans packed around his favourite court did not care as the Swiss gave them plenty to ooh and aah about in a 7-6(1) 6-1 6-4 victory.
The 39-year-old took a while to find his timing and needed to save three break points in his first service game.
But having been pushed into a tiebreak, the 20-time Grand Slam champion flicked the switch and his game began to flow as he claimed the breaker in scintillating style.
After taking the opener the sixth seed moved smoothly through the gears and Gasquet could not live with him as the Frenchman suffered an 11th successive defeat against Federer, a run dating back to 2011 in which he has not even won a set.
It was in marked contrast to Tuesday evening when persistent rain meant Federer’s first-round clash with another French player, Adrian Mannarino, took place under the Centre Court roof and looked to be slipping away from the Swiss.
He eventually got through when Mannarino suffered a knee injury after slipping on the greasy turf but it was one of Federer’s most hollow victories of the 103 he now owns at the All England Club.
Federer arrived at Wimbledon with doubts over his form after an unusually early defeat in Halle, but the signs are looking positive as he prepares to face Britain’s Cameron Norrie.
“Felt good physically. Much more relaxed in many ways, as I was able to play a really good breaker,” he said.
“What I was able to do today gives you a lot of confidence. You can start to play so much more freely.” Federer is adored at Wimbledon, but he may find the Centre Court crowd a little less reverential when he faces in-form Norrie, one of three British men in the third round after he thrashed Australian Alex Bolt.
Norrie reached the last 32 for the first time with a 6-3 6-1 6-2 win against the Australian wildcard.
“I hope the crowd gets into it,” Federer said on court after dispatching Gasquet.
“I understand if they cheer for him and if it is for me it is because of the last 20 years and all the big wins I’ve had here. Cam’s had a wonderful year and played great at Queen’s (reaching the final), backing that up here.
“But enough now — he needs to go out! I need to go through.”