Former British tennis pro, Annabel Croft believes Roger Federer will dominate the courts in 2018 while Rafael Nadal will falter as he recuperates from a knee injury. The Spaniard pulled out of the Brisbane Open citing a lack of preparation but is expected to be back for the Australian Open which gets underway next month.

Both players had a brilliant 2017 campaign, matching each other with two Grand Slams apiece. Nadal won the French Open and the US Open, while the Swiss ace took his tally to 19 with the Australian Open and Wimbledon. Federer defeated Nadal in the finals at the Rod Laver Arena in 2017 and will be looking to defend his title in what is expected to be a prolific 2018 campaign.

The tour will be made more difficult by the return of a score of big hitters who missed the 2017 campaign through injury. Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic are among the few players who will be looking to make a mark for themselves as the season begins next month.

However, Croft believes that Federer will still be the man to watch out for in 2018 as he is playing the best tennis of his career and is moving with freedom like that has never been seen before. In comparison, there are question marks over Nadal's fitness, especially his knee, and his performance across the year will depend much on how well he manages himself.

"There's always rumours about Rafa's knee," Annabel told Express Sport. "I've read a lot of reports about him cancelling a training camp, so I think a lot with him will depend on the knee, but Federer definitely. I think he's playing the best tennis we've ever ever seen him play.

"His movement for someone of his age, I reckon he's moving better than we've ever seen him. He's playing with such freedom and so much choice, and what he does with opponents is he comes at them so fast and furious, he doesn't give them time to think and it's such beautiful tennis to watch.

"He's reinvigorated the construction of points with the way that he's so aggressive: up-tempo, serve-volley, attack the net, finish them off, winning points quickly it's kind of reinvigorated that style of tennis. Yes, he's had some variety from Murray, the great groundstrokes from the back of the court from Djokovic but the way he plays it's made tennis really exciting again."

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal won a combined 13 titles in 2017 Getty