Serena's the woman to beat in French Open, says Pine
Our columnist says Serena's a big favourite for a special Grand Slam tournament
Every Grand Slam is unique.
The Australian Open in Melbourne with its wonderful fans, the old-world traditions at Wimbledon and the electric atmosphere at Flushing Meadows just so synonymous with New York.
The French Open's the same.
I've been to Roland Garros and it is an incredible tournament, with the best tennis players competing in an amazing facility right in the middle of the City of Light.
The biggest clay-court tournament in the world, the second Grand Slam of the year, will begin on May 22 in Paris.
Fans from all over the world soak up the French way of life - the coffee and croissants, and the world-class baguettes, wines and restaurants.
There is also a unique shine when the sun hits the red clay.
Best of all is the grit and determination etched on the faces of the players, as they slog it out in one of the toughest tournaments on the calendar.
Women's world No. 1 Serena Williams might not have won yet this year - she was the losing finalist at the Australian Open and Indian Wells, and crashed out in the last 16 in Miami two months ago - but she is the defending champion and I believe clearly the favourite for this year's French Open, because of her incredible mental strength.
The 34-year-old plays extremely well under pressure - just when you think she is out of the match, she can pull herself back in.
Serena has played through so many big matches and her experience means she copes better than any of her rivals when it comes to tight matches.
At this level of tennis, the belief that you can win on big points separates the champion from the rest.
Serena's will, coupled with her punishing serve and ground strokes, already makes her arguably the best player of all time and the leading candidate to lift her fourth French Open trophy.
The American knows it will not be easy, though.
The field in women's tennis is so deep, and players like sixth seed Victoria Azarenka are back in form and playing extremely well this year.
The Belarusian posted back-to-back wins at Indian Wells and Miami to complete the "Sunshine Double", only the third player, after Steffi Graf and Kim Clijsters, to have achieved the feat.
You also have Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber and Madrid Open winner Simona Halep in the mix, along with the hungry young guns fighting to establish themselves among elite company.
There are 2,000 points up for grabs at Roland Garros on the road to the WTA Finals here in October, and I expect players in the top 12 to be desperate to boost their tally as they chase qualification for one of the biggest tournaments in the women's game.
I'm really looking forward to an exciting French Open.
Clay is a unique surface, as it favours players who run a lot and play really long points. It favours topspin and a big serve is not going to be punchy, so it is quite an equaliser.
One of the biggest challenges of playing on clay is adapting your footwork - players need to slide on the court when they get stretched out wide, and there is much more stamina required.
Tennis is a combination of fitness, skill and mental fortitude, and a clay-court specialist needs all that.
The player who uses the surface to his or her advantage usually comes out the winner.
I personally find clay the most challenging to play on.
On grass, the ball rarely bounces so you want as little time on the baseline as possible and to get yourself to the net.
I started playing on clay only when I was 19 or 20, and I found the footwork very challenging.
The sliding technique did not come naturally, having not grown up on clay, so it was a very different movement style to master.
Of course, the pros have a full schedule of clay-court tournaments to "acclimatise" before arriving in Paris.
The WTA schedule keeps the different surfaces together, so players can prepare physically and mentally for the hard courts at the Australian and US Open, Roland Garros' clay and Wimbledon's grass.
Leading ladies like Serena and Azarenka will be ready, those hunting a first Major like Agnieszka Radwanska and Halep will be deadly keen to make a breakthrough in Paris.
The French Open has all the ingredients of being a special tournament.
Canadian Melissa Pine is a former NCAA player and a columnist for The New Paper. She is the vice-president of WTA Asia-Pacific and also the tournament director of the WTA Finals. Held in Singapore from 2014 to 2018, the 10-day tennis extravaganza showcases the world's top-eight singles players and doubles teams competing for a grand prize of US$7 million ($9.6m). For more information on the event, visit www.wtafinals.com