Novak Djokovic is confident of landing his first French Open title as the action begins today but, nonetheless, he still believes Rafael Nadal is the favourite.

The two players have emerged as tennis' most anticipated rivalry in recent history, thanks to some of their epic duels, and that is set to continue into Paris this year.

Nadal is dubbed the 'King of Clay' and has only ever lost once at Roland Garros in nine years on his favoured surface.

The Spaniard will be in the hunt for a record ninth victory in Paris to take his overall Grand Slam haul up to 14 -  which would level him up with Pete Sampars - only Roger Federer's current total of 17 would be left to usurp.

However the 27-year-old has been in less than impressive form in the build up to the two week event. Quarter-final defeats in other traditional strongholds of Monte Carlo and Barcelona were only somewhat mended by a laborious victory in Madrid, in which finalist Kei Nishikori injured himself whilst a set up. 

Djokovic, in comparison, has been on-fire recently. In the Rome Masters last week, he recovered from injury to beat Nadal in the final.

The Serbian star, who donated his Rome winnings to flood victims in the Balkans, has now won in their last four meetings and he is tipped to do what only Robin Soderling managed in 2009, and that is to beat Nadal at the French Open.

Djokovic takes heart from his performance in the Italian capital, but admits it will be a tough task to win the only major that has eluded him thus far.

Nadal is "obviously the favourite," he said to SkySports on the eve of the competition.

"Winning against Nadal on clay is something that doesn't happen every day, so that victory definitely helps my confidence and self-belief," he continued.

I'm healthy and obviously very motivated and inspired to play my best tennis at the French. Knowing that I have got closer and closer each year to the title gives me enough reason to be confident for the start.

"Even though it was a tough loss on me and I was putting a lot of emotional effort into winning this event last year, I still take the positives from that tournament."

Djokovic has tasted success four times on the hard courts of the Australian Open with single triumphs apiece in Wimbledon and the Us Open.

The 26-year-old reached his only final at Roland Garros in 2012 but succumbed to Nadal in four sets .

World no.42 Juao Sousa provides the first hurdle in this year's event for the no.1 challenger, meanwhile Nadal faces veteran Robby Ginepri who received wildcard entry.

It could be a tough route to a potential final showdown with Djokovic for the world no.1, he is in the same half of the draw as Andy Murray and David Ferrer who beat him in Monte Carlo.

The biggest threats to the Serbian star are Federer and home favourite Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

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#Tennis
#Novak Djokovic
#French Open
#Rafael Nadal