Just when you think you've seen the best of Roger Federer, you see more. It's becoming increasingly evident that Father Time leaves the occasional person off the list.
In one's pursuit of a story, Thursday's thought was that one of those long-present U.S. tennis prospects, Sam Querrey, might at least make Federer uncomfortable for a set or two in their Centre Court match at Wimbledon.
Querrey has been around for a while now. He is a 6-foot-6 Southern California product, who uses that height for a huge serve. He has gotten as high as No. 17 in the world, but is now No. 36. That's a lot of wheel-spinning in a nine-year pro career.
Querrey was looking for his first Grand Slam victory over a top 10 player. Maybe it was time. Maybe opportunity would finally knock for a player who is known as one of the nicest guys on the tour. After all, Federer will turn 34 in a month, and 34-year-old guys should be prime pluckings on a hard, fast surface.
Querrey, at 27, is running out of opportunities.
They played the first eight games as if this would be a real match. Big shots, big serves, big angles and big efforts on every point.
Then, in the ninth game, after Querrey had saved three break points with serves of 131, 132 and 136 mph, Federer snapped a cross-court backhand passing shot inside the line on the fourth break point and the match was all but over. It was as if Querrey were a balloon and somebody had stuck a needle in him.
More air leaked quickly, when Federer broke his serve again early in the second set.
Now it was a show, a tennis-skills exhibition. The score would be 6-4, 6-2, 6-2, but it was mostly Federer just being Federer. For anybody who knows the sport and was watching closely, the numbers were no longer an issue. But the entertainment value certainly was.
Querrey characterized it best later.
"You want to just go over and give him a high-five," he said, "but you can't."
Federer got a kick out of that.
"That's cool," he said. "Why not? He can do it."
Querrey, whose killer instincts are more suited to croquet than tennis, had the best seat in the house for this, the Federer show.
The Swiss star suddenly became Gretzky with the puck on his stick; Peyton Manning inside the five with the game on the line and 30 seconds left; Jim Murray and Red Smith with a lead; Meryl Streep with a role.
Among the points he won were an on-the-run, between-the-legs lob that sailed perfectly over Querrey, a flick half-volley off his shoestrings and a reflex cross-court forehand winner off the baseline chalk.
Club players make those shots once in a lifetime, and seldom with their eyes open. Federer makes them routinely. He aced Querrey twice in one game, both times off the same spot of chalk.
"He hits shots other guys don't have," Querrey said.
Federer also swung and totally missed on one shot, and went 0-2 on his Hawk-Eye line-call challenges. That's probably a ploy to make those he is playing, and those of us watching, think he is actually mortal.
Querrey said that he used to play Federer years ago with the goal of not getting embarrassed, and though the goals have certainly been upgraded, the image of invincibility seems to remain.
"He's got that aura around him," Querrey said.
He also had a pretty good summation of why that aura exists.
"You know," Querrey said, "he's Roger Federer. He's pretty good."
Federer lost in last year's final to No. 1 Novak Djokovic. It was highly competitive and compelling tennis, even as more stories than not said that he appeared to be losing his fastball with age. He has won seven of his record 17 major titles here, but no major since his 2012 Wimbledon win.
He was asked after the Querrey match if he is getting desperate to win another major title.
"I'm as determined as ever," he said.
When it was over, when he hit a 126-mph serve on match point that Querrey could not return, he shook hands with Querrey, tossed headbands and wristbands into the crowd, gave a wave to fans seated on all sides of this fabled tennis shrine, and headed off.
No big deal. It had been just another day at the easel for Picasso.