‘Phenomenal’ Sabalenka achieves rare feat as scorching Aus Open final blitz overpowers Zheng
Red-hot favourite Aryna Sabalenka sizzled to a dominant victory in Saturday night’s Australian Open final against Chinese underdog Zheng Qinwen to achieve the rare feat of not dropping a set on the way to winning a grand slam title.
The 25-year-old Belarusian, who broke her grand slam duck at Melbourne Park in 2023, did not drop a single set in seven matches at this year’s Open.
And the final was all one-way traffic as the world No.2 accounted for the 15th-seeded Zheng 6-3 6-2 to shed her tag as a one grand-slam wonder with 76 minutes of focus and ferocity.
Underlining her dominance, Sabalenka joins greats Ash Barty (2022), Serena Williams (2017), Maria Sharapova (2008) and Lindsay Davenport (2000) as only the fifth woman this century to lift the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup without dropping a set.
Zheng saved three championship points in the final game and held a break point but Sabalenka eventually held serve on her fifth attempt with a superb forehand winner to complete the rout.
She became the first woman to defend their crown in Melbourne since fellow Belarusian Victoria Azarenka in 2013.
The world No.2 broke Zheng three times without dropping her own serve all night to surge to within one tournament victory of supplanting Poland’s Iga Swiatek from the top ranking.
Sabalenka, who had won their only previous meeting, 6-1 6-4, at the US Open quarters last year, broke Zheng with her first opportunity in the first set and did likewise in the second.
Former world No.4 Jelena Dokic was impressed with Sabalenka’s display on Nine commentary.
“She was just phenomenal, from the back of the court, all power. Controlling every single inch of it,” she gushed.
“Right on top of the baseline. And the forehand was impressive. You can see Zheng try to go in to that side, try to get some unforced errors but just from Sabalenka, too good.
“This is the best that I’ve seen her play ever. You just wonder how much she’s going to win this year.”
Fellow commentator Sam Smith added: “She’s playing like someone who has won the last 24 from 25 sets at the Australia open. Scintillating form.
“She has looked every inch the champion.”
Sabalenka was the form player all tournament and was only really tested in her 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 semi-final win over Coco Gauff in which she exacted some revenge for last year’s US Open final.
Believing in destiny, Zheng had been hoping the stars would align and that she would become Asia’s second grand slam singles champion, a neat decade after her Chinese idol and inspiration Li Na won the Australian Open in 2014.
But the second-ranked Sabalenka ended the 21-year-old’s fairytale in clinical fashion.