You can forgive the temptation to feel ever so slightly sorry for Roger Federer. The 31-year-old world No.2, for whom Melbourne Park has brought such pleasure over the years, not to mention four replica trophies, is not the man about whom tongues have been wagging since the 2013 tennis season began in earnest.
The chatter instead has revolved around world No.1 and defending champion Novak Djokovic. Did he really lose to Bernard Tomic in Perth? Is he using an old frame in the guise of a new one?
Andy Murray too, who has been decreed to be faster than Usain Bolt over 10m, and more relaxed than he has ever been in the build-up to a major, has dominated the headlines. Should he be the one left holding the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup in 14 days time, he will be the first man in the Open era ever to follow up his maiden Grand Slam singles win with a consecutive second.
Or will it be a non-top four face? Even Rafael Nadal, absent with knees and other ailments, has garnered more press than his old rival Roger.
But don’t worry. Two days before the start of 2013’s first tennis major, the 53rd Grand Slam of his career, Federer is just as serenely sure of himself as ever.
“I know I won’t win all the tournaments I enter,” he said pragmatically on Saturday.
“But it’s important that I enjoy it and I try as hard as I can and put myself deep in the tournaments like I did last year. I play to win every match right now.”
Part of the reason why the great Swiss is flying under the radar is, very reasonably, simply because he hasn’t yet competed in 2013. Instead of playing in Abu Dhabi, Perth, Doha, Brisbane or Sydney, Federer has been on the practice court and in the gym, something he believes will stand him in better stead in his advancing years.
“It’s been very relaxing, the last few one and a half months,” Federer said.
“I arrived really early, two, three days earlier than in the past, which has been quite nice.
“I purposely didn’t play a lead-up tournament so that I’d be fresh for the beginning, hopefully going deep into the tournament. That’s the goal, obviously.”
But that is not to say that the record-breaking Grand Slam champion is short of matchplay.
Federer’s seminal tour to South America in the weeks before Christmas granted him the opportunity to play several high-quality exhibition matches against the likes of David Ferrer and Juan Martin del Potro. But, almost more importantly, it reminded Federer, if he needed it, of the power his name commands.
“[It was] one of the most fascinating trips of my life,” Federer said.
“I was deeply impressed by the atmosphere, by the love for the game, for the appreciation they showed for me showing up.”
As a result, Federer maintains, he is as motivated as he was as an early 20-something, albeit for different reasons.
“I’m ready to go and eager. That to me right now dominates,” he said.
“I think as long as that’s the case, that means I love it very much.
“Today I take much more pleasure out of doing the gym work than I ever have. Today things for me make sense. I know why I’m doing them. I know they’re necessary.”
Whether that knowledge alone will be enough to propel the Swiss to a fifth Melbourne Park crown remains to be seen, but there’s never any counting him out, even if it’s not being said out loud.
Federer knows he’s still got what it takes. And so does everyone who faces him across the net.