Novak Djokovic's coach Goran Ivanisevic has started the mind games ahead of the Serbian's first match at the French Open that got underway on Sunday at Roland Garros. The former Wimbledon winner claimed that Rafael Nadal is the favourite even if the Spaniard is carrying an injury, while also stating it is better for Djokovic to face Nadal before the final.

The Serbian world number one is the defending champion in Paris, and is coming into the tournament having claimed his sixth Italian Open title in Rome. He is among the favorites to claim the title on the red dirt at Roland Garros, while Nadal has played just five matches on clay this season owing to rib and foot injury troubles.

Despite the 13-time French Open champion's injury troubles, Ivanisevic feels that Nadal's familiarity with the courts at Roland Garros makes him an automatic favourite. The Croat is certain that the former world number one will be at his best when he steps on Court Philippe-Chartrier on Monday.

"For me, there is only one favourite at Roland Garros and that is Nadal. Even with what has happened with his foot in Rome, I always think that. Injured, not injured, he is always the favourite here. It is his home, his court. Whether he plays well or badly, under the sun or not, it changes nothing," Ivanisevic said, as quoted by the Daily Express.

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic
Rafael Nadal (R) and Novak Djokovic (L) played each other for the 57th time. Filippo MONTEFORTE/AFP

Djokovic and Nadal have been drawn in the same half and could meet in the quarterfinals. The latter has a better record over Djokovic at Roland Garros having won seven of their ten previous meetings. Ivanisevic feels, however, that it is better to meet the 13-time French Open winner in the quarterfinals rather than in the final.

It is clear that Djokovic's coach wants to get inside Nadal's head, as he made a similar statement when the Serb was slated to meet the Spaniard in the semifinals last year. The former came out on top on that occasion, and is likely to have the advantage again this year owing to Nadal's injury concerns.

"When I saw the draw, to be honest, I said: 'OK, Nadal is going to get to the final. And so Novak was out..'" Ivanisevic added.

"Rafa or not, Novak needs to concentrate on himself. He has to get to the quarter-finals and then they will think about this match. It will surely be the biggest quarter-final in the history of Roland Garros. I said that to you last year, here, it is always better to face Rafa other than in the final and I still think that. Rafa in the final at Roland Garros, he is hard to beat."

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic kisses the trophy after winning his sixth Italian Open Tiziana FABI/AFP