Rafael Nadal’s former coach and uncle Toni Nadal believes the world number one will continue to play until his “body allows him” and believes the times have changed with the best players now older than those in previous years.

Uncle Toni, as he was fondly known on the ATP Tour during his 17 years as Nadal’s coach, also blamed the ATP for the injuries suffered by the players on the tour as he believes changing the balls to make them faster every year is not the best idea.

Nadal and Roger Federer are currently the two top-ranked players in the world, while Novak Djokovic is back in the top 10 after a small hiatus and is likely to climb the rankings as the season wears on. The trio combined have dominated the game for over a decade and Toni believes it is a change compared to when the Spaniard started his career.

When the likes of Nadal and Federer started their career, the top-ranked players were under 25 years old with Leyton Hewitt becoming the youngest world number one in history at 20, while Andy Roddick joined him a couple of years later before the Swiss ace took over at the top in 2004 and the Spaniard joined him on the list of ATP number ones in 2008.

However, Toni believes the trend has changed as currently the younger generation is unable to topple the veterans with the top two players aged 32 and 36 respectively. Alexander Zverev, 21, is the world number three, but the next four on the list are all well above 25.

Rafael Nadal
Toni Nadal (L) coached Rafael Nadal (R) for 17 years on the ATP Tour. In this picture, Toni Nadal and Rafael Nadal of Spain chat during a practice session ahead of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Tennis Centre in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Aug. 3, 2016. Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

“If you ask me for how much time he will still play? For sure, until his body allows him to,” Toni said, as quoted on Tennis World USA. “When we came on the Tour in 2002/2003, the best ones were very young. Lleyton Hewitt, for example, was the youngest No. 1 at 20 years of age in 2001. And today? The best players are all over 30: (Roger) Federer, Rafa, (Andy) Murray, (Novak) Djokovic.”

The big four – Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray – have all suffered major injuries in recent seasons and uncle Toni lays some of the blame on ATP and the International Tennis Federation (ITF) because they change the tennis balls every year to make it faster.

“ATP and International Federation (ITF) made some mistakes. Balls are a little bit faster every year, players need more power and it causes injuries. Arm, hip injuries and so forth. Balls should be lighter. I think it would make the game lower and more attractive.”

Nadal’s former coach also reserved special praise for his long-time rival Federer and believes the two veterans will continue to be the top-ranked players when the 2018 season concludes. The Spaniard is 2,230 points ahead of the 20-time men’s singles Grand Slam champion at the moment.

“Both are amazing," the 57-year-old added. 'I am convinced Rafa and Roger will be at the first places at the end of the year. Both of them live tennis with a passion.”