Li Na's best and worst traits were on display during (and after) her 7-6, 6-0 win over Dominika Cibulkova in the Australian Open women's final in Melbourne on Saturday.
Worst: When she's out of sorts, she goes all the way with it. She committed 25 unforced errors in the first set alone, 15 off of her forehand. She double-faulted twice, she won only 50 percent of her first-serve points, and though she created six break-point opportunities, she won only two of them. Cibulkova was faulty enough on her own (20 unforced errors, 26 percent win percentage on second-serve points) that the first set went to a tie-breaker. Na won it with relative ease, 7-3, which opened the floodgates.
Best: With any sort of rhythm, she is physically dominant. In the second set, she settled in and simply pummeled the physically overmatched Cibulkova. She hit 12 winners with just five unforced errors, she landed 78 percent of her first serves and her return was devastating. She won 12 of 18 points on her serve and 12 of 18 on Cibulkova's and cruised, 6-0.
Best Best: No one is more entertaining on the mic.
Li Na has mastered the art of being funny by simply being honest. There is no difference between her on- and off-court persona, and it has made her one of the world's most popular players. (The two slam titles probably don't hurt in that regard.)
While we justifiably marvel at the way Serena Williams is able to dominate at times at age 32, we should probably make more of the fact that Na is just a month from 32 herself and she will be No. 3 in the world when the new WTA rankings come out. She experienced a late-career surge a few years ago, capped by a 2011 French Open title. But this is no longer a surge. This is a consistently strong display by one of the best players of the last decade. She finally scored an Aussie Open title in her third finals appearance, and after facing a match point in the third round against Lucie Safarova, she played some of the best tennis of her life to take the championship.