My top 10 Australian Open occurrences, in ascending order:
10. Czeched out: Petra Kvitova lost in the first round to world number 98 Luksika Kumkhum. Enough said.
9. Mixing it up: Kristina Mladenovic and her partner, Daniel Nestor, won the mixed doubles title. They won Wimbledon last year, and were in the French Open final. Mladenovic looks like a good candidate for a Career Slam in mixed doubles, and we can look forward to her winning more in women's doubles, too.
8. Quirky: 2006 champion Maria Sharapova fell victim to Dominika Cibulkova in this year's Australian Open. It's always something these days.
7. Army of me: The Genie Army was there to cheer Genie Bouchard on, but the 19-year-old Canadian did all the heavy lifting. She took out crowd favorite Casey Dellacqua and seed 14th Ana Ivanovic and made it all the way to the semifinals, where she was stopped by Li Na.
6. "She also is normal": This was Li Na's explanation for top seed Serena Williams' exit in the round of 16, courtesy of Ana Ivanovic. I'll add that she also was injured, but that hasn't always stopped Williams from going to the final. I kind of like Li's take on the matter.
5. Hot or not?: The court temperature went as high as 108 degrees during the first few days of the event, and it took officials a long time to decide when the close the roof and stop play on the outer courts. A long time. A doctor did appear along the way, however, to inform us that the players were in no danger. Caroline Wozniacki tangled with a baby kangaroo, too.
4. Strong to the core: Commentators keep saying that Dominika Cibulkova is little, but she isn't--she's short. The Slovakian player has a strong core and extremely strong legs, and she's quite muscular. She had a remarkable run at the Open, taking out Maria Sharapova, Simona Halep and Agnieszka Radwanska. Li Na kept her from winning the title, but Cibulkova showed us that, with a new racquet, a new training regimen and a new attitude, she's more dangerous than ever.
3. Plates are for pasta: No one in the entire tournament had a more "under the radar" presence that defending doubles champions Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci. The Italian team didn't dominate the tour in 2013 the way they did in 2012, and little mention was made of them, even though they made it all the way to the final. And in that final, they went down 2-5 in the third set. But hey--these are Fighting Italians, and they won the final set 7-5 and lifted the trophy, while their Russian opponents had to be content with the silver runner-up plate.
2. High art: Aga Radwanska makes us gasp at almost every event she plays. Her drop shots, ingenious volleys and angles are the stuff of endless replays. She is an artist on the court, not to mention an astonishing athlete. She outdid even herself, however, in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open. Her upset of defending champion Victoria Azarenka had the crowd screaming and the television commentators moaning. The third set, in which Azarenka did not win a game, was a tour de force of such intensity that it stirred in those who saw it the kind of awe that all great art inspires. Unfortunately, the effort drained Radwanska of all strength and she was easily defeated in the semifinals. Still, her quarterfinal performance, especially in the third set, ranks as one of the greatest performances ever of a woman on a tennis court.
1. Not falling down: This was Li Na's announcement to spectators after her quarterfinal victory--that an important part of her game plan for the Australian Open was "not falling down." This was, of course, a reference to the 2013 final, in which the Chinese star fell twice, turning her ankle and hitting her head. Having lost two finals at the Open, Li was dead set on lifting a trophy this time around. And she did it. Lucie Safarova almost stopped her in the third round, but after the Czech's errant match point shot flew outside the court, Li was transformed into The Champion. From that moment on, her performance was--if not perfect--certainly the performance of a woman on a mission. Li defeated Dominika Cibulkova 7-6, 6-0 in the final to win her second major. The mission was accomplished.