Name: Li Na Born: February 26, 1982 in Wuhan, Hubei province Beijing entry: Women's tennis singles Career highs: Wimbledon quarter-final (2006), world ranking 16 (January 2007) Medal rivals: Maria Sharapova, Justine Henin and Jelena Jankovic Never before has a mainland tennis player been the subject of so much criticism, so much concern, and such great expectations. But for Li Na - China's top singles player, famed free spirit and regular visitor to the physiotherapy room - the circus surrounding her is all in a day's work. Far from being distracted, Li is resolutely focused on one thing - winning Olympic glory for her nation. The 26-year-old from Hubei, ranked 35th in the world, was once the darling of the Chinese tennis community with her scorching baseline strokes and never-say-die approach. But the fire she took on to the court simmered off it, leading to Li falling out with her coaches and earning her a place in the media doghouse alongside other 'rebels' such as divers Tian Liang and Guo Jingjing and basketball player Wang Zhizhi. Li ignored the sniping - climbing to number 16 in the world rankings and in 2006 becoming the first Chinese player to reach the quarter-finals at Wimbledon. But last year, just as it looked like she might crack the top 10, injury brought her career to a shuddering halt. 'I missed tennis so much when I was out last year,' she said. 'I can't believe I'm here again, able to serve and just run around the court. It makes me emotional thinking how I used to take everything for granted.' An inflammation of the ribs ruined 2007, and her comeback this year was delayed due to a right knee injury. Keen to find positives, Li says her injuries have given her a better understanding of her situation. 'Sometimes you simply don't know what you have until it is gone,' she said. 'I will patiently do my rehab and make sure I'm 100 per cent healthy at the Beijing Games. All of my teammates and officials have invested so much in me. I really appreciate that, so I don't want to let them down in August.' This respect for officials is something of a change for Li, who said at the China Open in 2005: 'I can't learn anything from my national team coaches, I can't feel any improvement. I don't know what I'm doing now, and I have no idea where I'm going in the future.' Clearly, a different approach was needed and in 2006 the Chinese Tennis Association appointed Li's husband Jiang Shan as her coach, even though he had no qualifications and had achieved nothing of note as a player. It was a bold move by a sporting establishment where relationships between athletes are frowned upon and can even lead to them being dropped from a team altogether. To the surprise of many, it appears to be working. 'I am more motivated now and I feel my desire for the Olympics is greater than ever before,' Li says. 'I love the pressure.' National team coach Jiang Hongwei - who has told Li that the minimum acceptable result is a bronze medal - believes she will surprise many people at the Games. 'What delights me most is that Li has become a more mature person,' Jiang said. 'As long as she is mentally solid, I am sure she will play at her best level at the Olympics.'