It was a couple of hours before the match. A few Roger Federer loyals, dressed in red and white, watched as the Swiss had a practice session with his recently appointed coach Paul Annacone. His plain white t-shirt was bereft of any corporate (or self) branding. A baseball cap on, Federer looked casual, disinterested and easily distracted.
Two hours later, he walked into a packed arena, dressed in striking red. The easy motion in the shots remained, but the movement across the court was electric. During the match, between points, he switched from a livewire to a dummy in an instant, by some in-built mechanism.
And Robin Soderling couldn't quite survive a charged up Federer, as he went down 6-7 (5), 3-6 in the match and out of the ATP world tour finals.
The tall Swede has won only one of the 16 matches that the two have played. Not quite the counter-puncher, the type which Federer hates the most, Soderling lapsed into too many errors to take the fight to the world number two. The match was a feast of big serves, big forehands and some teasing rallies. But it ended up being an exhibition of Federer's talents.
Federer was hot on his feet, and cool in his head; his opponent exactly the opposite. And this Swiss didn't take long to exploit it. Even as Soderling muscled and screamed his way through, looking towards his coach, Magnus Norman, almost every point, Federer kept his wits about and completed the job in an hour and 28 minutes.
He thus booked his place in the semi-final without losing a set in the three matches. It's been a breeze so far.