Who would have thought?
When Federer fell to number three in the world rankings last year, that was supposed to be the beginning of the Swiss' slide - a gradual but inexorable descent from the dazzling heights he had occupied for so long.
The notion was reinforced when he lost that semi-final to Novak Djokovic in last year's 2011 US Open - the second successive major match he had lost after being up two sets to love. That, surely, was the knockout blow; one from which even the mighty Federer would struggle to recover. Not so.
The former world number one has since gone on a barnstorming run, one which has seen him lose only two matches (to Nadal in the Australian Open semis and to John Isner in the Davis Cup) en route to six titles. Basel, Paris, London, Rotterdam, Dubai, Indian Wells have all seen Federer covered in confetti.
In the course of these wins, the 30-year-old has beaten eight out of the world's top 10 players except Djokovic and world number nine Janko Tipsarevic, neither of whom he has come up against thus far after the US Open.
That is not the sign of a man in decline, that's the hallmark of a player who's enjoying some of the best tennis of his career. As ESPNSTAR.com wrote in the aftermath of Federer's Aussie Open loss to Nadal, the 16-time Grand Slam champion looks too good to retire without at least another major to his name.
The signs that he is on top of his game came not in the final against Isner in Indian Wells, but against Nadal in the semis - when he recorded his first win on an outdoor hard court over the Spaniard in seven years.
Strong winds and rain interruptions had made for nightmarish playing conditions, but Federer was masterful against a visibly perturbed Nadal. One point in particular highlighted the zone Federer is in at the moment.
Leading 6-3 3-1 with Nadal serving, he rushed in to the net on the back of a decent approach shot, only for the Spaniard to pull off a superb lob. Even as the ball swirled in the gusty winds, Federer rushed back - took some small, but crucial steps to adjust for the ball's movement before smacking a forehand right into Nadal's backhand corner. It elicited a weak return, and Federer followed up with a forehand winner into the same corner to take the point.
The match was perhaps already decided at this juncture, but the point showed the Swiss' timing and movement remains impeccable.
And this formidable form is precisely why he goes into the Sony Ericsson Open as the red-hot favourite to lift a second successive Masters title, as well as the possibility of recapturing the world number two spot in the rankings.
The way tennis rankings points are calculated means that if Federer wins the tournament, and Nadal fails to make the final - the 30-year-old will leapfrog his arch-rival into second. That would be seriously impressive given that he was more than 2000 points adrift of Nadal (and more than 6000 behind Djokovic) back in September 2011.
It won't be easy. The Swiss has a tough draw to navigate in Miami, including a potential third-round clash with Andy Roddick (who beat him in a non-ATP affiliated exhibition recently) and if he gets past the American, a possible first meeting of the year with Djokovic in the semis.
Federer's two-year Grand Slam draught may still be topmost on the minds of the average tennis fan - but six trophies in as many months are evidence of a man still at the peak of his game. The only question that matters is whether he can sustain the same level of excellence in best of five matches.
Unfortunately, that question can only be answered when the French Open and Wimbledon roll around in the summer. For now though, it's time to shift focus to Miami and on a fascinating tussle for the right to be called the world's second best player.
Current World Rankings & Points
1. Novak Djokovic: 12,670
2. Rafael Nadal: 10,175
3. Roger Federer: 9,350
4. Andy Murray: 7,450
5. David Ferrer: 4,700
6. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: 4,535
7. Tomas Berdych: 3,860
8. Mardy Fish: 2,910
9. Janko Tipsarevic: 2,730
10. John Isner: 2,675