The dull, rhythmic sound gradually increases. The measured and precise gestures of the dribble against a green wall without too much surprise return the immanent elegance of Roger Federer, immaculate as on the lawns of Church Road, even in a banal Instagram challenge during the boredom of the first lockdown.
It was much less obvious to predict that those frivolous disenchanted dribbles, wearing a challenge pad, would be the only tennis snapshots of the Swiss champion in over twelve months. Last year's Australian Open was the last tournament played by Federer and, with the Melbourne Grand Slam at the door, a moment of reflection on the King seems appropriate.
Programmatically, Roger's choices had been flawless, as usual. In February he had decided to solve some problems related to his troubled right knee by undergoing an arthroscopic operation: he would have compromised the American spring on the concrete and the exhausting season of brick dust but you know, in the challenge to poker over time, you have to agree to sacrifice a few hands to take the pot home.
Federer's, not too hidden, has always been the most beautiful garden in the world. Roger Federer hasn't won a Grand Slam in three years with Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic closing on his record tally but former US tennis star Chanda Rubin believes the Swiss tennis star will come back with a vengeance this season.
Federer's 2020 season was cut short shortly after his appearance at the Australian Open after undergoing knee surgery.
Rubin on Roger Federer's chance in 2021
"I think the most likely thing to say is Wimbledon," Chanda Rubin said on Tennis Channel.
"That's where Roger Federer is so good but I'm going to go with the US Open. I think he's going to need just a little more time, that may do him some good. I was going to go with the finals or potentially winning [the US Open].
I know he hasn't won there since 2008 so it may be a little unlikely but I think Federer is good for another major this year and I think it might be there." For now, the focus turns to the 2021 Australian Open without Federer in the field.
Djokovic heads into the tournament as favourite with Nadal still recovering from an injury sustained during the ATP Cup. But Dominic Thiem's triumph at the US Open last year suggests the next generation of players are closer than ever to giving the 'big two' a run for their money.