Rafael Nadal's uncle Toni Nadal expects his nephew to be able to break Roger Federer's record of 19 Grand Slams if the Spaniard is not injured because he can endure a lot to go all the way. 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 took his tally to 19 with the Australian Open and Wimbledon.

The Spaniard had the last laugh, however, as he saw off the challenge from Federer to seal the year-end number one ranking in the penultimate event of the season, the Paris Masters, making it the fourth time he has achieved the feat in his glorious career. The Swiss ace, meanwhile, had to be content with second spot despite having won seven titles in the year, one more than Rafa, who managed six.

Toni, who was part of the most successful years in Rafa's life, expects his nephew to have the drive in him to beat Federer's tally of slams in the years going forward.

The difference could have been lesser had Rafa not stumbled in the 2009 French Open to Robin Soderling and in the finals of the 2012 Australian Open, which are among Toni's biggest regrets.

"It depends on his desire and injuries," he told Mundo Deportivo, when asked how long Rafa will be competitive in the circuit. "If his physique is doing well, he can endure a lot. I trust he will endure enough to break Federer's record of 19 Grand Slams."

Meanwhile, Toni does not expect the top-two to have their way in 2018 as a lot of big hitters will be making their comebacks, starting with the Australian Open. 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.

"This year, there have been circumstances. Djokovic has not been at his best, Murray either, Wawrinka has had more problems, also Nishikori and Raonic, although I do not despise what Federer and Rafa have done. When Djokovic won everything, he also said that he was lucky that he had not met against the best Rafa and Federer. That helped him and we have also been helped by this circumstance," Toni said.

Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal will return to action in the Australian Open Getty