LONDON • So high are Roger Federer's hopes of adding another Grand Slam title to his collection of 18 at Wimbledon that the 35-year-old is considering skipping a substantial part of the clay-court tennis season to ensure that he is in peak physical shape at the All England Club.
The Swiss surpassed his own expectations after a six-month layoff at the end of last year by winning the Australian Open last month to end a drought of 41/2 years without a Major title.
The benefits of a break from the grind of regular tournament play were clear and the Swiss is considering the possibility of more downtime in April.
Although he is unlikely to miss the French Open, Federer, who returned to action at the Dubai Duty Free Championships on Monday with a 6-1, 6-3 first-round win against Benoit Paire of France, has acknowledged that his best chance of claiming further Grand Slam glory will come on the grass of London rather than the clay of Paris.
"I know the French Open is going to be hard just because I would have to put in so much work during the clay-court season even to be perfectly ready for it, and even then there is no guarantee," Federer said. "I have to ask myself the question, how much am I going to put into it?
"At Wimbledon and the US Open I always have chances as long as I'm playing and am healthy. The courts suit me. The goal will be Wimbledon. I know this is where I have my best chance and I hope to be at 100 per cent."
A final decision on Federer's clay schedule will be made after this run of three tournaments in five weeks - Dubai, Indian Wells and Miami.
He has it in mind, though, that a period of rest, followed by practice and fitness work, will serve him better than competitive play.
"I will only decide on the clay-court swing after Miami," Federer said. "In my best years I played three, sometimes four (clay) tournaments. That's always going to be a hard ask right now - the body also needs some healing again."
Federer, chasing a record eighth title at the Dubai showpiece, could not have wished for a more comfortable match on Monday.
Paire was fortunate not to injure a line judge or ballboy when he smashed his racket against the courtside advertising boards.
The timeless Swiss, who had been unsure of his form and fitness following the layoff and a leg injury after the Australian Open, is yet to lift an eighth title at any event, having achieved seven in Dubai, Wimbledon, Basel, Cincinnati and Halle.
"I'm happy with how I played, I was able to stay aggressive," he said. "I couldn't have had a better first-round start.
"There were some break points to be saved and I returned very well for a first round. The serve in the beginning was a bit off maybe, but I think also playing at night here for the first time it's always just a different ball when you toss it up with the lights, so that's going to get better as I progress in the tournament."
THE TIMES, LONDON, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
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