That was again the case on Sunday night as before his adoring public he dismissed Tomas Berdych 6-4 6-2 to win his opening group match at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals.
Andy Murray – who starts on Monday afternoon against David Ferrer – knows what it is like to feel almost a stranger in your own country when facing Federer at this event.
So Berdych, forever stuck in the chorus line behind the so-called Big Four, was never likely to be anything other than friendless against the Swiss legend. Federer’s following does not diminish with his advancing years, as demonstrated after the match when he picked up the ATP Fans’ Favourite award for the 13th time.
As for the neutrals, after a match lasting 69 minutes they were left awaiting a proper contest in the singles event with shades of what happened twelve months ago when there were so many lopsided matches in the main event.
As Novak Djokovic walloped Kei Nishikori 6-1 6-1 in just over an hour, by far the best contest was provided by Jamie Murray’s first doubles match.
When Berdych broke Federer right at the start there may have been hopes of a gripping battle about to ensue. Faced with the world number three’s elegant flourishes, the Czech was too inconsistent to trouble the favourite, whose most unusual feature was his lengthy stubble.
Already it must be extremely likely that Federer and Djokovic will be in opposite sides in Saturday’s semi-finals, and their match Tuesday may well be a playoff for who goes through from the group on top.
The 28-year-old Scot plays his opening group match on Monday afternoon, and ought to be tested by the pugnacious Spanish veteran Ferrer.
The world No 7 was comfortably defeated by Murray in the recent Paris semi-final, although form is not always everything for the British player when it comes to this event, where he can be less predictable than normal.
Murray looked very sharp in Paris but ended his tournament here last year by winning just one game against Federer. It is not easy to assess how we will find him this week, especially with the preoccupation of the looming Davis Cup final.
That is his stated priority, but he needs a couple of wins inside the dome to ensure the world number two position is his at the end of the season. Ferrer is the most likely source of one with Murray’s other two group opponents being Stan Wawrinka and Rafael Nadal, who face off on Monday night.
Predictability of performance is quite assured when it comes to Djokovic, who is as much a racing certainty to win this season-end event as Federer was in his heyday during the mid-Noughties.
The competitiveness of his match against Nishikori was not helped by the fact that the Japanese player has been suffering from injuries, including a stomach muscle strain, and he admitted afterwards that he had not been able to practice serving much in recent days.