Indian Wells, United States (AFP) - Roger Federer keeps saying he's still on the comeback trail, but he's covering ground faster than he ever imagined.
The maestro, sidelined for much of 2016 with a knee injury, soared to a fifth ATP Indian Wells Masters title on Sunday to go with the 18th Grand Slam crown he claimed at the Australian Open in January.
And now that he's back at No. 6 in the world, leapfrogging 14-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal in the process, Federer is reassessing his goals for 2017. "This was not part of the plan, to win Australia and Indian Wells," Federer said after his 6-4, 7-5 victory over fellow Swiss Stan Wawrinka in the Indian Wells final.
"The goal was to be top eight by after Wimbledon, so I'm there much, much faster.
"I will make the plan for the remainder of the season, especially for the clay, after Miami, and then see also what the goals are because the goals are clearly changing after this dream start."
Federer emerged from a daunting quarter in Indian Wells that also included world No. 2 Novak Djokovic and Nadal as well as former 2009 US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro and rising talents Nick Kyrgios and Alexander Zverev.
Kyrgios sent Djokovic packing, and the Serbian star has since withdrawn from this week's tournament in Miami saying an elbow injury he's carried for months had worsened.
Federer wiped the floor with Nadal in Indian Wells, just two months after his thrilling five-set win over the Spaniard in the Australian Open final.
Wawrinka was the only player who managed to break Federer's serve in the California desert, but eventually, even he could only stand back and admire his superstar compatriot's majestic progress to the title.
"The way he's playing is just so beautiful," Wawrinka said of the 35-year-old Federer who captured his 90th career title. "Everything looks perfect. He's moving amazingly well. He has amazing touch. He's doing everything you can do on the tennis court."
Although he said it was too soon to start thinking about the milestone of 100, he certainly goes into Miami a strong favourite with Djokovic as well as injured world No. 1 Andy Murray out of the second Masters event of the year.
Whether he can move past Wawrinka, Djokovic and Murray and regain the No. 1 ranking is a question that Federer, in his current incarnation, isn't too worried about.
"Sure I'd love to be number one again," he said. "But anything else other than world number one for me is not interesting. So that's why the rankings is not a priority right now."
Instead, he's focused on approaching each tournament he plays with energy and eagerness, something he admits was missing when he turned up in Dubai and lost to 116th-ranked Evgeny Donskoy.
"I just wasn't 100 per cent prepared, unfortunately, because of the injury I was carrying after Melbourne," he said. "I was still tired. I was lacking energy."
At Indian Wells, he said, the preparation was complete and the energy was good, and he anticipated the same for Miami.
"I think I'm going to be fine on that front just because I'm feeling too good on the court and I'm having too much fun," Federer said.
"Winning creates a lot of good energy.
"But I know how hard it is to win back-to-back Indian Wells and Miami titles.
"That's why I go to Miami knowing it's going to be really difficult," added Federer, who is showing renewed talent for making the difficult look oh so easy.