Ferrer won his maiden Masters title in Paris after triumphing at home in Valencia and extended his winning streak to 11 by downing Juan Martin del Potro in a bruising three-set contest in London on Tuesday. Further, Federer, referring to his body, revealed he had some "little things" he had to "work through" entering the year-end championships.
But as he has routinely done throughout his career, Federer cooled off a hot challenger and beat the tenacious Spaniard 6-4, 7-6 (5) to improve to 2-0 in Group B and seal a spot in the semifinals. Ferrer went 0-for-6 on break points in Federer's opening two service games, and such wastefulness won't cut it against the Swiss.
In ending Ferrer's period of good luck, Federer prolonged his own streak against the world No. 5: They've butted heads on 14 occasions, and each time it's ended the same way: Game, set, match, Federer.
"In some ways it's helpful to have that one-sided head-to-head record, but at the same time it sometimes creates pressure as well," Federer said. "You try hard. He tries harder because all he needs is that one win, so then he's got that. So, I mean, I tried hard to not make it happen today."
Ferrer and Mikhail Youzhny lead the way among active players in being on the receiving end of a dismal head-to-head record against the 17-time Grand Slam champion, yet they'll take comfort in knowing they have company.
Federer versus David Ferrer (14-0)
Closest call: Federer def. Ferrer 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 2009
Ferrer has toppled countryman Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray at least twice. But he can't unlock Federer. Reflecting on his troubles against Federer, Ferrer said Thursday: "He's the best of the history. He can do everything with his game. I think he changes very good his game. He has a very good slice, very good serve when he needs [it]. You know, he has a lot of weapons [to hurt] my game."
This includes clay, the surface Ferrer feels most comfortable on.
Federer versus Mikhail Youzhny (14-0)
Closest call: Federer def. Youzhny 5-7, 6-4, 6-3, 2000
Youzhny is a gifted showman and thus sometimes more concerned about executing flashy shots than attempting to win a match (similar to Gael Monfils). If winning is indeed his top priority, he needs to summon his Davis Cup mindset.
Youzhny tested Federer -- in their first tussle 12 years ago in Stockholm.
In one stretch, Youzhny dropped 16 consecutive sets; in their last rendezvous at Wimbledon this year, Youzhny, who was getting drubbed, turned to Andre Agassi in the royal box for help.
"Andre was sitting close, so that's why I asked him," Youzhny said at the time. "He knows how to beat Roger and how to play on grass. He said something, but it did not really help me because it was two sets too late.
"If we had played best-of-seven or nine or 11 (sets) ..."
It likely still would have concluded in straight sets.
Federer versus Jarkko Nieminen (13-0)
Closest call: Federer def. Nieminen 6-1, 4-6, 6-3, 2011
He's a lefty, but unfortunately for the Finn, a lefty without the heavy topspin forehand of Nadal. As much as Nieminen moves well and is steady from the baseline, he lacks the weapons to damage Federer. Nieminen, twice a Grand Slam quarterfinalist, would admit, too, that his second serves leave plenty to be desired.
Federer won the first 23 sets they contested before Nieminen broke through in Federer's hometown of Basel last year.
"If I have to lose against a player more than 10 times, let it be Roger Federer, then," Nieminen wrote on his blog after a defeat to Federer in Halle two years ago. "I told him after the match that I'll challenge him in paddle or beach tennis."
Federer versus Stanislas Wawrinka (12-1)
The Wawrinka win: 6-4, 7-5, 2009
Wawrinka possesses the ability to beat anyone on tour, unlike Nieminen. He's one of the purest ball strikers on the men's tour and generates enormous power off the forehand and backhand.
But Wawrinka struggles to win the big points (against Federer and other top-five players) and, particularly, in taking on his compatriot, must confront the teacher in the student-teacher relationship.
In his prime, under then coach Peter Lundgren and on the heels of dismantling Andy Roddick, Wawrinka was pummeled by Federer in 107 minutes at the 2011 Australian Open.
"You see the first couple of games and think, 'S---, it's like this today,'" said Lundgren, formerly Federer's coach. "Roger saw the ball amazing."
Wawrinka also sagged against Federer in Shanghai this fall. Ahead by a set, he lost the second in a tiebreaker -- and was bageled in the third.
Federer versus Nikolay Davydenko (17-2)
The Davydenko breakthrough: 6-2, 4-6, 7-5, 2009
In this instance, the lopsided record is slightly misleading: Although Federer won the first dozen matches, several were close.
At the 2007 French Open, Federer conceded that he might have lost their semifinal in straight sets instead of prevailing in three, 7-5, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (7); a year earlier in Melbourne, Federer edged two more tiebreakers as part of another four-set victory.
Davydenko's misery ended at the World Tour Finals in 2009, and he made it two in a row in Qatar months later, only to collapse against Federer at the 2010 Australian Open, when he led by a set and a break.
"Davydenko went from No. 1 to 400," said Roger Rasheed, then an analyst for Australia's Channel 7. "He blinked."
Since then, Federer has won eight of their nine sets.