Roger Federer may not be finishing this season at No. 1, but he certainly looks like the player to beat at the ATP finals.
While Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray had to dig a little deeper to emerge victorious in their own opening-round matchups, Federer made it look easy against Janko Tipsarevic, winning 6-3, 6-1 and never even giving his opponent a chance.
And now, the rest of the field knows what it is in for. This isn't the player who bowed out far earlier than expected in the U.S. Open quarterfinals at the hands of Tomas Berdych (who fell to Andy Murray in the ATP finals). Nor is this the Federer who fell to Murray in the semifinals of the ATP World Tour Masters in Shanghai less than a month ago.
Of course, there's always time for the tide to turn and there's always the chance that Federer was just beating up on inferior competition (as inferior as it could possibly be, given that this tournament's entrants are the eight best in the world), but when he is that locked in, he is hard to beat.
That much was evident at Wimbledon this year, when Federer took down both Novak Djokovic (6-3, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 in the semis) and Murray (4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4) en route to victory.
Everything seemed to be in Federer's favor in Tuesday's match—the momentum, the history, even the fans, whose support made it a little bit easier to get a victory that's never been particularly difficult for Federer to obtain at this particular locale. According to ESPN.com's Ravi Ubha, Tuesday's win marked Federer's 40th at the World Tour Finals.
Knowing that he plays so well at this tournament, in addition to the support of the fans, made Federer's win a lot easier to come by. He told the Associated Press via ESPN.com:
Obviously, come in knowing that I've played so well past years, I expect myself also to be at a solid level. I've had a good year. It's true, I feel like I'm striking the ball well after today. I hope it's a sign for more to come.
Most likely, it is.
Federer is feeling confident. He's looking confident. He rolled to victory with far more ease than either of his two top competitors for the title, who will face each other on Wednesday. None of that is good news for the rest of the field. The last time Federer felt this good, he won his seventh Wimbledon title, and he defeated the best of the best to get it.
The best part is, Federer makes it look easy, but it's not. As his opponent on Tuesday told the Fox Sports' Richard Evans post-match:
I think Roger Federer is everything but lucky. People see him play this flawless tennis and say, "Oh, life is so easy for Roger, he's so talented." He is talented but there's so much work behind that. Of course the fact that he was born with that magic hand of his is a plus. But I think Roger is one of the biggest—if not the biggest—professionals that the sport has ever had.
And with that professionalism comes an expert sense of knowing precisely what he has to do to win.
Anyone who dares to put him to the test throughout the rest of this tournament is bound to learn it the hard way.