Roger Federer was asked whether appointing former net-rushing great Stefan Edberg to his coaching team was a signal that he would, and needed to, play more aggressively.
''You mean if I don't serve-and-volley he's going to split up with me?'' the Swiss replied.
Cue smiles all round, for it is usually Federer doing the dumping. Most recently - but very amicably - of American Paul Annacone after more than three years that brought a seventh Wimbledon title and one last fling at No. 1. The 17-time grand slam champion is now ranked sixth in the world after his first season since 2002 empty of a grand slam final.
Edberg, a childhood idol of a young Federer, recently spent a trial week with Team Federer in Dubai and has agreed to a part-time consultancy arrangement in 2014, starting at the Australian Open. Swiss Davis Cup captain Severin Luthi will remain the head coach; Edberg, presumably, will come from a different angle.
''It's going to be interesting to see what he thinks, if it's possible to play a lot of serve-and-volley on the slower courts we see all around the world now, or if there are different ways for me to find my way to the net,'' Federer said.
''I've tried many things. We can debate - with Severin Luthi, my coach - about ways to come to the net or not … It's a combination of many things now against the good players we know at the top. So it's going to be interesting to see what he has to say. I have some idea, but then, am I able to make that happen in a match yet? I don't know.''
The time in Dubai, Federer said, was spent chatting about his tennis life and how it works, to meet the expanding family, the support staff, to give Edberg an idea of what he would be getting into. Make sure he was comfortable after 15 years away from the game. Give the six-slam Swede some time to consider it, all of it.
''I thought if we could do a few weeks together, maybe 10, maybe 12, it could be something fresh, new, inspiring,'' Federer said. ''Him being the legend he is and someone I look up to so much, anything he will say will mean very much to me and my team. I think we can build on that and then see how it goes in Australia, and then as we move along in the year, we'll decide where he's going to come to.''
There had not previously been any contact. ''No, never. I never had his telephone number,'' quipped Federer. ''Now I have it.''
He has also shared the general sense of surprise that came with his rival Novak Djokovic's appointment of another legend, Boris Becker, as the head of a revamped coaching team, having not thought of the German as a budding coach. ''But then again, I'm happy seeing former greats and legends excited to be doing such a job and wanting to help the next generations. To bring them back into the game, I think it's a good thing.'' If not, it seems, something for Federer.
Not that he is finished quite yet, just diminished enough to have slid from the perch he occupied for so long. The leaders now are Rafael Nadal and Djokovic, whom he again nominates as the duo to beat, especially early in 2014, and Andy Murray, whom Federer hopes will return strongly from recent back surgery.
In the meantime, he has again practised with Lleyton Hewitt, the fellow 32-year-old with whom he has shared a long and friendly-enough history. The pair has begun to hit more regularly in recent times, including one notable session before the US Open, where Hewitt upset Juan Martin del Potro to reach the fourth round.
''Now at this stage of our careers we're really happy getting the best out of each other for practice and helping each other,'' Federer said.
''Clearly being here now in Australia, it's probably a bit more special. I always wish him the best. I hope he can win tournaments and move up in the rankings to give himself better opportunities to move forward in the draw.''