Aryna Sabalenka Breezes past Zheng Qinwen in Australian Open final

Aryana Sabalenka with her Australian Open Trophy (Image: Aus Open Twitter/X)

There is a certain ruthless streak in Aryna Sabalenka. On Saturday, at the Rod Laver Arena — packed to the rafters — the defending champion from Minsk in Belarus was utterly commanding as she demolished Zheng Qinwen 6-3, 6-2 to extend her hold on the women’s singles trophy at the Australian Open.

Wearing a red outfit, like a matador waving the flag at Zheng, Sabalenka rampaged past her opponent with pace and power. Experience, she has in plenty, having won the title at the same venue last January. If you thought that alone was a factor, then you would be mistaken.
For, Sabalenka produced tennis which was top class, where her strong serve and ability to whack shots on either flank from the back and mid-court caught the eye. Indeed, the woman in red was a picture of concentration, as she knew taking anything for granted would be dangerous.

Also Read: Jannik Sinner Blows Novak Djokovic Away to Reach Australian Open Final

Zheng, a kid who started first with table tennis and then shifted to tennis, hails from Wuhan, China.
She has played hard tennis, gone through a tough life, much like the Chinese sports system, where parents leave the child in a residential academy and do not come more than a few times in a month. Yet, Zheng is proof that champions can emerge from such a system.
Just that in an arena where Sabalenka was so comfortable, Zheng had to produce that extra pace and extra burst to try and match her. By any yardstick, Sabalenka inspires awe. Her shot production is brutal yet looks sublime when viewed from the stands. If the spectators inside the arena, under fading sunlight and then the arc lights, soaked in the atmosphere, she gave them so much to feel happy about. For, a ticket into the arena on a final day costs around A$300. Sabalenka gave them value for money as she exhibited tennis and temperament which was a reflection of her desire to peak on the big stage.

This edition of the Australian Open has seen so many upsets, from the losses of Iga Swiatek and Coco Gauff. If someone had to ensure the seedings would be respected and no further damage would be done, Aryna Sabalenka, the No. 2, had to play near-perfect tennis. There was no margin for error against a Chinese opponent who certainly has as much talent as Li Na, and from whom more will be heard in the remaining three Grand Slams in 2024.

When Sabalenka won the title (Image: Aus Open Twitter/X)

To be sure, Sabalenka has been irresistible this long fortnight Down Under. She did not lost a set in the first six rounds. The key was to continue with that same intensity and hunger in the final. She did it, though there were patches when Zheng tried upsetting the champion’s rhythm with her mental resilience on a court where the ball was slow off the surface.
Sabalenka’s tennis is powerful yet there is an aesthetic touch when she prepares to serve or execute the forehand. The left arm moves up from the waist skywards, as if getting her balance right to whack the Dunlop ball. Her coach Anton Dubrov has, obviously, spent time in chiselling out her tennis to such a state.

The last time a ladies’ champion won the Australian Open title and then retained it was in 2016 and 2017, when diva Serena Williams ruled the world. No comparisons between her and Sabalenka, but the current champion has a pile driver of forehand and a double-fisted backhand capable of creating geometric angles and trajectories.
No narration would be complete without a description of the way Sabalenka covers the court. She is tall, which does help in lateral movement. Yet, when she has to go for the low ball, she bends her knees gracefully without losing power.
The last point, when Sabalenka smashed a forehand cross-court winner, she smiled, and raised her arms. Emotions, at last, from the Belorussian champion.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *