It may have been three years since Li Na made history as not only the first Asian but also the first Chinese tennis champion, but with Roland Garros just around the corner, the 32-year-old could be about to spring another surprise.
Available at 6/1 to win the 2014 French Open outright, Li Na heads into the event off the back of a 12 months in the women’s game where she has made the quarter finals at Wimbledon, reached the semi-finals at the US Open and, most significantly of all, captured a first Australian Open title.
Riding high on the crest of a wave after that victory in Melbourne, where she saw off Dominika Cibulkova in straight sets, the 32-year-old will be keen to keep the momentum going in a competition she has experience of success in.
Li Na put in an impressive show against 2011 US Open champion Samantha Stosur at the recent Italian Open, winning 6-3 6-1 and while she was ultimately defeated in three sets by eventual finalist Sara Errani, her record of 20 wins and just six defeats at Roland Garros suggests she is one to watch.
The victory over Stosur was a significant one for the Chinese star too, who had previously lost each of her last six meetings with the Australian, with this clay-court success suggesting that the 32-year-old may have turned something of a corner.
As ever, the two main contenders to the French Open crown remain Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova, with the former warming up for the clay-court event with victory in Rome.
Williams can be backed at 5/4 with Ladbrokes to retain the title she won in 2013, but with just two Roland Garros titles to her name, those seeking a banker may be better off backing 5/1 rival Maria Sharapova.
The Russian remains, at best, inconsistent, but with clay titles won in Stuttgart and Madrid already this year, it’s hard to ignore the 27-year-old, who has made at least the semi-finals of the competition three years running.
It may take a stumble from one of Williams or Sharapova, but when it comes to dark horses, Li Na looks the best bet.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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