Here are my top 10 Australian Open highlights, in ascending order:
10. Crazy from the heat: This year, as in usually the case, there were days in Melbourne when the heat was beyond brutal, but the players had to go on. Both Simona Halep and Alize Cornet were suffering in their round of 16 match; Halep, especially, looked as though she might drop from the heat.
But it was Barbora Krejcikova who was ultimately overcome by it. She played her quarterfinal match against Madison Keys through to the end, but she looked very weak and in pain. A commentator suggested that if she done some training in the heat instead of staying in the Czech Republic in the off-season, she might have done better. That's possible, but also, some bodies just do not adapt to extreme heat, no matter what.
9. Where Is Your Brain?: Human (and non-human) rights are not "political," in my opinion. The Australian Open, however, decided that some of them were political. The tournament's organizers put together a Pride Day for LGBTQ fans and players, but forced fans in Where Is Peng Shuai? shirts to remove them. That makes about as much sense as--well, as the way they handled the Novak Djokovic nonsense (crazy from the heat, maybe?). Public protest was successful, and--in the end--Where Is Peng Shuai? shirts were sold at the event.
8. A match point to remember: Every once in a while, someone hits a match point so spectacular, we have to keep looking at it. In Melbourne, Iga Swiatek hit one of those.
7. Diede the (really) Great: She did it again--Diede de Groot swept both titles at the Australian Open. Her 2022 dominance gives her four singles titles and three doubles titles in Australia. She and partner Aniek Van Koot (whom she defeated in the singles final) won the doubles title when they defeated Yui Kamiji and Lucy Shuker in the final.
6. Mladenovic and Anybody--still a winning team: Kiki Mladenovic and Ivan Dodig won the mixed doubles title; they were seeded 5th. This is Mladenovic's third mixed doubles title; she also has five major women's doubles finals.
5. Not your typical tennis legend: Kaia Kanepi is one of those grand stage players (others include Tsvetana Pironkova, Sorana Cirstea and the now-retired Ekaterina Makarova) who comes to life during majors and takes on giant-killing status, even though we may not see much from her in other tournaments.
While she was in Melbourne, Kanepi achieved a unique milestone: She became the only player ever to reach the quarterfinals of all four majors while unseeded. Kanepi had already twice reached the quarterfinals of the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. Someone on Twitter suggested that we call this the Kanepi Slam, and I'm all for it. (Pironkova, by the way, is missing only the Australian Open on her path to achieving the Kanepi Slam. It would be easy to dismiss her, but after a three-year absence, she returned to the tour in 2020 and reached the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open, and anything is possible with the Bulgarian Woman of Mystery.)
4. Allez!: It's a pleasure to finally include Alize Cornet in a top 10 list. Those who read this blog know that I consider her the biggest under-achiever on the tour, and one of the biggest under-achievers ever. That's the sad part. The joyful part is that--on her sixty-third try--Cornet finally made the quarterfinals of a major. She defeated qualifier Victoriya Tomova, 3rd seed Garbine Muguruza, 29th seed Tamara Zidansek, and 14th seed Simona Halep. She lost her quarterfinal match to 27th seed Danielle Collins, but it was one hell of a run.
3. Getting so close: And speaking of Collins, She made it all the way to the final, taking out the likes of Clara Tauson, Elise Mertens and 7th seed Iga Swiatek along the way. Collins reached the semifinals in 2019. Already diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, last spring, she had surgery for endometriosis, then won her first two WTA titles. Collins is the first NCAA singles champion (she won the title twice) to reach the final of a major. The U.S. player was up 5-1 in her second set against Ash Barty, but then saw her first serve--and ultimately, the match--disappear.
I have a feeling that this won't happen a second time. Off the court, Collins is a feminist spokeswoman, and the tour desperately needs more of those (I no longer count the obligatory "I wouldn't be here without the Original 9" statement as meaningful.)
2. You can't have a list without Czechs: Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova won their fourth major when they defeated Anna Danilina and Beatriz Haddad Maia in the doubles final. Match point featured Krejcikova yelling at her partner to let her have the ball, which Krejcikova then lobbed expertly at her opponent's feet. What a way to seal the match! The top seeds won a gold medal at the last Olympic Games, and Krejcikova has won three major titles (all in Australia) in mixed doubles. And--in a nod to how the stars used to do it--Krejcikova is now also an elite singles player.
1. Barty party all the time: It had been 44 years since an Australian had won the Australian Open, but world number 1 Ash Barty took care of that gap by winning the 2022 championship. Barty didn't drop a set throughout the tournament, and she was broken only three times--two of those breaks occurred in the final, in which she played Danielle Collins. Barty is a complete player--she can serve, she can move, and she can think. The Aussie star has now won a major on every surface, and achieving a Career Slam cannot be far behind.
And if ever anyone did it her own way, Ashleigh Barty did. From veering away from her doubles success, to leaving the tour for a couple of years to play another sport, to playing what is unfortunately called a "throwback" style of tennis--the world number 1 followed her own needs and instincts, and the results are stunning.