Tennis: Aryna Sabalenka beats Zheng Qinwen to retain Australian Open title

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Aryna Sabalenka underlined why she had long been considered the Australian Open favorite by overpowering Zheng Qinwen to retain the women’s title.

Belarusian second seed Sabalenka won 6-3 6-2 to claim her second Grand Slam singles trophy without dropping a set.

With 12th seed Zheng backed by passionate Chinese support, a composed Sabalenka sucked the energy out of her opponent and the crowd in a fast start.

She is the first woman to win back-to-back since Victoria Azarenka in 2013.

Sabalenka, 25, who became the strong favourite after top seed Iga Swiatek was beaten in the third round, emulated her compatriot Azarenka by completing victory in little over an hour.

“It’s been an amazing couple of weeks and I couldn’t imagine lifting the trophy another time,” said Sabalenka.

Zheng, 21, was playing in her first major final and often looked overawed – by both the occasion and her opponent.

While Sabalenka was trying to replicate the achievement of compatriot Azarenka, Zheng also had a significant moment of history which she was hoping to emulate.

Aryna Sabalenka celebrates before championship point during their Women’s Singles Final match against Qinwen Zheng of China during the 2024 Australian Open (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Ten years ago, trailblazing Chinese star Li Na won the 2014 Australian Open to the delight of the nation – and an 11-year-old Zheng who watched on television with her childhood friends.

Aryna Sabalenka (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

It would have sparked joyous celebrations – in Melbourne and back home – if Zheng marked the notable anniversary with her triumph.

In a city with an enormous Chinese community, Zheng was backed by a majority of the 15,000 crowd with excitable fans waving Five-Star Red Flags and homemade banners in their support of a player known as ‘Queen Wen’.

Aryna Sabalenka (Photo by Robert Prange/Getty Images)

However, she was unable to provide the victory they craved.

As well as looking nervy, Zheng could not cope with the pace of Sabalenka’s groundstrokes as the world number two proved too much of a step up in class.

Zheng Photo Courtesy: BBC

The Chinese player had not faced an opponent ranked inside the top 50 – including British number one Katie Boulter in the second round – during her run to the final.

“It’s my first final and I’m feeling a little bit [of] pity but it was a good experience at the same time,” said Zheng.

“I feel complicated because I could have done better but I didn’t in this match.”

Source: BBC

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