Former female tennis pro, Annabel Croft has revealed that she does not expect Roger Federer to retire anytime soon as he wants to seal his legacy as the best tennis player to ever rule the courts. The Swiss, with 19 Grand Slams, is the best the world has ever seen but Croft believes Rafael Nadal, being five years younger, has feared Federer into putting further daylight between the duo.

Rafa will start his 2018 campaign with 16 Slams, three shy of his arch-nemesis, who has started the year in great form. Both players had a brilliant 2017 campaign, matching each other with two Grand Slams apiece. Rafa won the French Open and the US Open, while the Swiss ace was not to be left behind as he turned back time to win the Australian Open and Wimbledon.

Federer will have the upper hand going into his title defence, having started the season in great form, winning the Hopman Cup, while beating world no.3 Alexander Zverev in the process. The Swiss is unbeaten in the run-up to the tournament and has not been affected by injuries.

The same cannot be said about his peers, with Nadal landing in Australia late after recovering from a knee injury he picked up in 2017. The Spaniard began his preparation with an exhibition match at the Kooyong Classic in Melbourne in a 4-6, 5-7 loss to Richard Gasquet, leading to rumours that he is not fully fit.

Among the others, Novak Djokovic has already confirmed his participation following his arrival in Australia. Wawrinka, who last featured in Wimbledon in 2017, has also said that he will play in Melbourne. However, Andy Murray misses out after undergoing surgery on his hip.

Croft believes Federer wants to leave a legacy behind once he retires, an achievement which can never be trumped. The Swissman does not want to face the same fate as Pete Sampras, who despite having won 14 Slams saw his record broken by Federer, a feat which can be repeated in the Swissman's case by Nadal.

"You know what I think is keeping him going, for the majority of his career now he's been playing with the kind of piece of history hanging over his head of being the greatest ever," Croft told Express Sport.

"So he's played the majority of his career knowing that he is possibly going to end his career as the greatest ever player to have ever played.

"But of course with Nadal lurking not too far behind and Nadal being that much younger, if he decides to hang up his racket then he knows that Nadal will be reinvigorated and just continue to fight and chase the titles and he won't be able to get that time back.

"It's like when Sampras went, he probably never thought in a million years that in the next generation a young lad would come along and overtake his record, because, at the time when he did it, it was unthinkable that someone could win 14 Grand Slams and not only did Federer do it, but he surpassed it."

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal
Federer's win over Nadal in the Australian Open final was the first of four wins against the Spaniard in 2017 Getty