Straight sets Sabalenka does it again to claim crown
BELARUSIAN world number two Aryna Sabalenka successfully defended her Australian Open singles title last night, going back-to-back after a comprehensive 6-3 6-2 victory over 12th seed, Qinwen Zheng. In a performance that capped off her overall two weeks at Melbourne Park, Sabalenka did not look like dropping a set, instead securing her second crown in an hour and 16 minutes.
The first set was a strange one with Zheng serving six aces to one and hitting seven more winners (11-4) and only two more unforced errors (7-5). Despite the reigning champion usually hitting her opponents off the court, it was the Chinese 12th seed that was doing that, but not consistently enough. Her forced errors were the difference with Sabalenka’s power rewarded in Zheng not able to get enough clean shots away.
Much has been spoken about Zheng’s inconsistency on serve, but she ran at a 63 per cent clip in the first set, while Sabalenka – who broke the first chance she got – was four per cent less. However in a briliant effort, the Belarusian only dropped one point off her first serce, and won 55 per cent of her second serve points to save all three break points against her.
In the end, that early break was the difference and Sabalenka won the first set 6-3. Without a doubt she was full steam ahead for the Australian Open crown, breaking Zheng for the second time in the opening game of the second set, and had raced out to a 3-1 lead in 21 minutes.
Sabalenka would break again in the fifth game to essentially seal the deal after Zheng served a double fault following an unforced error. The Belarusian took the chance with her sole break point in the game to slam home a backhand winer and move out to 4-1 then hold to be one game away from the match.
To Zheng’s credit, she held serve to force Sabalenka to serve for it herself, which, after a nervous game that included a break point, the Belarusian managed to do. The second seed capped off the performance with a terrific forehand winner to secure the trophy 6-3 6-2 in 76 minutes.
Sabalenka thanked her team and family for their support, making note of her heavy defeat at the Brisbane International which sparked a response.
“Thank you so much for being by my side no matter what, without you I wouldn’t be able to achieve so much in this sport,” she said post-match. “I put a little bit of pressure on them after [the] Brisbane final, and we did a little bit better in this one.
“It’s been an amazing couple of weeks and I couldn’t imagine myself lifting this trophy one more time. I love you so much and you’re my biggest motivation, and everything I’m doing, I’m doing for you,” she said of her family.
Sabalenka became the first back-to-back Australian Open women’s singles winner since compatriot Victoria Azarenka a decade earlier, and completed the run to the 2024 crown without dropping a set in the tournament.