Will Roger Federer play on the dirt this year?
Barry Cowan admits he would be "shocked" should world No 1 Roger Federer decide to play any clay tournaments this season.
Federer, who cannot lose the world No 1 spot next week even if old rival Rafael Nadal triumphs in Acapulco, decided against taking up his wild card invitation to the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, instead opting for to go to the Laureus Sports awards ceremony in Monte Carlo instead.
The 20-time Grand Slam winner will then head to the US to begin preparation for title defences at the Masters 1000 events in Indian Wells and Miami.
And with uncertainty around the fitness of Spaniard Nadal, there could be a temptation for the Swiss superstar to add to his Grand Slam tally by playing at the French Open.
But Cowan expects Federer to skip the entirety of the clay-court season so that he is ready for the defence of his Wimbledon crown.
I don't believe he can win both the French and Wimbledon so for me it's one or the other.
Barry Cowan on Roger Federer
"What Federer has shown is that he knows when to pick and choose what tournaments he enters because he doesn't want to overplay," said the Sky Sports analyst. "He will identify what are the most important tournaments and then say 'what do I need to do before that to be ready?'.
"Indian Wells will be his number one priority more so than Miami, so he will try to do the best he can to play in the desert.
"He will play Indian Wells and then he will see how he feels after that and whether he commits to playing in Miami. I don't think Miami is a certainty.
"I don't think he will play on the clay. I would be shocked if he plays on the clay because why does it change from this year from last year?"
Federer won his sole title at Roland Garros in 2009
Cowan remains insistent that should Federer do a major U-turn and decide to play at Roland Garros, it could jeopardise his chances of winning Wimbledon for a ninth time.
"I don't believe he can win both the French and Wimbledon so for me it's one or the other," said Cowan. "The likelier chance of winning one would be Wimbledon. What would he rather win? Personally, I think he would rather win another Wimbledon title, but only Roger knows that answer.
"It worked last year not playing on the clay and then playing Stuttgart and Halle before Wimbledon, so I don't see him changing that, but no one could ever argue with his schedule. He got it spot on last year apart from when he played in Toronto because that came back to bite him and he wasn't ever quite the same after that. It also cost him his chance of winning the US Open."
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Barry Cowan was speaking to Sky Sports' Raz Mirza. We're covering the ATP Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, and ATP 500 Acapulco on www.skysports.com/tennis with news, previews, live blogs, reports and expert analysis.
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