A peculiar thing to mull is that Roger Federer might be underrated.
Millions of compliments on broadcasts and in print ... millions of fans swooning on five continents and maybe even Antarctica ... people painting faces with the Swiss flag even if they have never stepped into Switzerland ... people wearing caps and clothing with "RF" even if those aren't their initials ... people who seldom watched tennis watching Federer for the art of it ... millions following the 16 grand slam titles on television ...
Yet still, somehow, underrated.
From time to time there comes the realisation that because his shot-making has wrung such wows, aspects of the toolbox have gone overlooked.
Another such time cropped up on Tuesday night, when Somdev Devvarman, the Indian No 1, turned up opposite Federer for the first time at the Dubai Tennis Championships. That would differ from watching his idol, and it would differ mostly with … that serve.
"I mean, his serve is absolutely unbelievable," Devvarman said. "I think his groundstrokes, I mean, all of us have seen magic from that, but his serve is unbelievable."
Now, through all the groundstrokes so kind to the eyeball, people more than occasionally have complimented Federer's serve. It absolutely abetted his long throne-sit at Wimbledon, where he won five consecutive titles, won six out of seven and the other time "lost" in one of the best matches ever played.
Yet people, ever riveted by aces, have not spoken ad nauseum about something that cried out to Devvarman. "It's so hard to read, you know," he said. "It's not about the pace. I think I played guys that hit a little bit harder. But it's really tough to read. He really focuses on hitting his spots right. I think once he does that, it's tough."
As the opponent tries to guess from an array of possibilities, it comes flying in to deepen both the imperfection of the return and the pickle of the point.
Said Devvarman, "I think it's very underrated, how good his serve is." And it is a mandatory component of this other statement: "He plays tennis on his terms."
Devvarman, of course, has earned the expert-analyst tag. His presence opposite Federer helped stoke a vibrant atmosphere at Aviation Club, and his pluck in a 6-3, 6-3 defeat drew him applause even as Federer dug from his repertoire some trademark artwork.
Devvarman, 26, has reaped a trove of trophies from the American college ranks, the Asian Games, the Commonwealth Games. He went to the University of Virginia, so he must be very smart. (Wink.) And when he pinpointed something rather fresh about Federer, his insight brought to mind his Texas-based sometime workout partner, Andy Roddick.
One year after Federer and Rafael Nadal played that majestic 2008 Wimbledon final, Roddick and Federer played something roughly three-quarters as marvellous in the 2009 Wimbledon final.
In that gem, Roddick went a staggering 37-0 in his first 37 service games. He troubled Federer to precipices and into a fifth set that lasted 95 minutes. He demonstrated such competence and polish on his third Wimbledon final appearance that all Centre Court wound up chanting his name.
He did absolutely everything but win, falling by these saddest of tennis words: 16-14 in the fifth.
With his insides disintegrated, he came to the interview room where normally he shines and delivered mostly brief answers, apologising for their insufficiency. Everyone understood. One insight did get him waxing, though.
"He was having trouble picking up my serve for the first time ever," Roddick said. "He just stayed the course. You don't sense he was frustrated by it. He kind of stayed the course and just toughed it out.
"He gets a lot of credit for a lot of things, but not a lot of the time is how many matches he just kind of digs deep and toughs it out. He doesn't get a lot of the credit for that because it looks easy for him."
Ten years of watching Federer play tennis, and to think the bustle of the toolbox can occlude even vital assets. That is really something.