The French Open and second Grand Slam of the year got under way at Roland Garros this weekend highlighting the pinnacle of the clay court season.
With world number two Andy Murray withdrawing through injury it has opened the door for Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer & Novak Djokovic to advance to the latter stages in somewhat simpler circumstances.
Not since the US Open in 2009 has someone other than the big four won a major tournament.
This makes our job of predicting a winner somewhat easier.
Winner: Rafael Nadal
An obvious but necessary choice, Rafa Nadal has played in recent tournaments as if he had never stopped playing, despite missing the latter half of 2012 and the Australian Open in January due to a recurring knee-injury.
Dubbed ' the greatest clay-court player to ever player' by tennis legend Bjorn Borg, Nadal won a record seventh title in Paris last year, and comes into this year's event on the back of six wins and two runners-up medals since returning to the sport in February.
It is his strongest ever start to the year, and makes him a remarkable favourite to land the title, though a likely semi-final match-up with world no. one Novak Djokovic should prove far from easy.
Runner-up: Roger Federer
Fortunately for Federer, long-standing rival Novak Djokovic is placed in the same side of the drawer, whilst Andy Murray - a likely semi-final opponent - was forced to withdraw with a back injury.
Clay-court specialist David Ferrer represents a tough potential obstacle none the less given his recent good form, whilst Thomas Berdych is capable of beating anyone on his day, as shown by his defeat of Djokovic in last week's Italian Open.
Nonetheless, Federer should have the experience and know-how to overcome a potential meeting with Jo Wilfred-Tsonga and reach the final, but would need to improve dramatically on his crushing defeat to Nadal in Italy if he is to have any chance of winning a second French Open.
Winner: Serena Williams
Whilst her older sister Venus looks to be rapidly in decline - having lost in Paris already in the first round to Urszula Radwanska - 31-year old Serena's determination and ability show no signs of waning as she goes in search of her 16th Grand Slam Title.
The American powerhouse comes into Roland Garros on the back of successive victories in Miami, Madrid and Rome and a 24 match unbeaten run.
Her record against likely challenger Maria Sharapova and Rafael Nadal is incredible Indeed she has beaten her 13 times respectively, whilst losing just twice, including comfortable wins over Sharapova in the finals of both Miami and Madrid.
Runner-up: Maria Sharapova
The 26 year-old Russian has been in good form as of late, winning the indoor clay Stuttgart Open and reaching the final in Madrid before losing to Williams. Currently number two in the world, she has no doubt benefitted from the ankle injury suffered by former world number one Victoria Azarenka at the BNP Paribas in March, keeping her out of all the major tour events leading up to Roland Garros.
It is this lack of playing time which should just about allow Sharapova to overcome Azarenka - who won the Australian Open in January and had gone 17 games unbeaten before injury - should they meet en-route to the final.
Write for GiveMeSport! Sign-up to the GMS Writing Academy here: https://bit.ly/12evFlH
DISCLAIMER: This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of GiveMeSport.com or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. GiveMeSport.com and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.
Do YOU want to write for GiveMeSport? Get started today by signing-up and submitting an article HERE: https://www.givemesport.com/writeforgms