If Roger Federer's iron grip on men's tennis is a thing of the past, never to return, then the reason won't be his unborn child, or his refusal to appoint a full-time coach.
Since his fifth-set collapse in the Australian Open final against Rafael Nadal, Federer's game and mindset have dominated discussion in tennis circles and opinion is divided on whether he can ever again match the remarkable standards he set for himself over five glorious years.
However, the analysis and second-guessing of the world's second-best player is now going a step too far.
On countless occasions over the past week, Federer has had to answer questions on whether impending fatherhood – his long-term girlfriend Mirka Vavrinec recently announced she was pregnant – would hinder his efforts to overhaul Nadal as No.1.
Then there is his ongoing decision to do things his own way, instead of employing a permanent coach. Australian Darren Cahill, who previously worked with Andre Agassi and Lleyton Hewitt, spent a few days with Federer in Dubai two weeks ago before the pair decided against teaming up.
For some, the choice to shun the chance to combine with a coach of Cahill's reputation was a sign of weakness and proof of Federer's inability to accept he doesn't always know best.
Yet there was no questioning of the choice to go solo when the Swiss master was racking up Grand Slam titles with consummate ease.
The events of Australia proved that, mentally at least, Federer is not in a particularly good place just now. But to rip up the plan which took him to 13 Slam titles would be a foolish knee-jerk reaction.
Federer does appear to have a mental block about Nadal and it is that issue that he needs to fix – and fix himself. It is some psychological perspective, not a drastic overhaul, that will give him the best chance of taking the challenge to his great rival.
The women's draw at the BNP Paribas Open resembled a bloodbath in the opening week, with Jelena Jankovic, Elena Dementieva and Svetlana Kuznetsova sent crashing out in their opening matches. Nine of the top 16 seeds failed to make it to Monday, and with Venus and Serena Williams boycotting the event, big ranking points and prize money are up for grabs for some lower-ranked players.
USE YOUR FREQUENT FLYER MILES
The tennis universe is centered on the Californian desert again this week, with fans eagerly anticipating a renewal of hostilities between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, the kings of the men's game.
Congratulations to Richard Williams, the outspoken and controversial father of tennis' most famous sister act. Reports from Florida this week have indicated that the 67-year-old is to be married to Lakeisha Graham, 37 years his junior, after the Key Biscayne tournament later this month.
THIS WEEK'S PREDICTIONS
Last week's the Monday Slice predicted Nadal and Elena Dementieva would prevail at Indian Wells. No reason to change our backing of Nadal, who has looked in imperious form so far. Dementieva was upset by Petra Cetkovska, leaving the bottom half of the draw wide open. Look for Ana Ivanovic to emerge and make a run at the title.
BNP Paribas Open, Indian Wells: Rafael Nadal
BNP Paribas Open, Indian Wells: Ana Ivanovic
- Rafael Nadal