But Nadal was quick to dismiss those queries, insisting he has no worries as the end-of-year ATP World Tour Finals approach.
The brilliant five-game run he delivered rallying from 1-3 down in the fifth set to dispatch Nadal in the Australian Open final not only signaled a shift in the balance of power in this rivalry it showed path forward for Federer.
Federer's 6-4, 6-3, victory over Nadal in the Shanghai Rolex Masters final ended one streak and extended another while reinforcing his forward path.
Only Jimmy Connors (109) has won more trophies.
Federer, the only man who can still stop Nadal ending the year as number one, took an hour and 12 minutes to claim his sixth title of the year and his second Shanghai crown.
He said he believes he lost the epic 2008 Wimbledon final against Nadal because he was still rattled by a heavy defeat just a few weeks earlier at Roland Garros.
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"I don't know what my expectations were going in", Federer said.
"It's been a pleasure playing against you here today".
Alex Zverev, 20, must be commended for making great strides this year and winning two Masters titles, but at the majors he has not gone further than the last 16 and suffered two first-round exits. "When you play against somebody that is better than you in most of the things that really matters on this sport in this kind of surface, then it's tougher". "I played a fantastic tournament, having very good wins". "He played very fast and he played well. But the conditions here were much better for him than for me, being honest".
The 31-year-old Nadal, who was on a 16-match streak before Sunday's final, said Federer was reaping the benefits of taking breaks from the sport.
Nadal was expected to play the remaining three tournaments in Basel, Paris and the ATP Finals in London, but his latest setback could see him focus his attention on the Paris Masters and the finals in the English capital. "Sometimes you never know when it will all come together but it happened to me this week in Tianjin".
"This year has probably been the most successful of my career here in China".
Sunday's final was decided by a break of Nadal's serve in each set, the elegant Federer working openings to pick up an impressive victory.