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The Roar


'Phenomenal' Sabalenka achieves rare feat as scorching Aus Open final blitz overpowers Zheng

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27th January, 2024

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.

“It’s been an amazing couple of weeks and I couldn’t imagine myself lifting this trophy one more time,” Sabalenka said.


“It’s an unbelievable feeling right now. I’m really speechless.”

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.”

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 27: Aryna Sabalenka serves during their Women's Singles Final match against Qinwen Zheng of China during the 2024 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 27, 2024 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Aryna Sabalenka serves during the women’s singles final against Qinwen Zheng. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

A one-time emotional wreck undermined by serving yips, Sabalenka thanked her team for their unwavering support and said she could never have won a grand slam without them.

But she singled out her parents – including her ice hockey playing-father Sergey – for introducing her to tennis at the age of six.

“I never speak about my family on the winning speeches before,” Sabalenka said.


“But I actually have to say thank you so much for everything they’ve done for me.

“I love you so much and you’re my biggest motivation. Everything I’m doing, I’m doing for you.”

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.

“Congrats to Aryna to have such wonderful match here and it’s my first final,” Zheng said. “I’m feeling a little bit pity but it is this experience for me.


“At the same time, I want to say thanks for all the fans who come here to watch me. I feel right now very complicated because I feel that I could do it better, but I didn’t in this match.

“But, anyway, I want to say thanks to my team to help me arrive here and also I really enjoyed to play in this Australia Open. That was an amazing memory for me and I’m sure there’s going to be more and better in the future.”

Zheng’s consolation is a rise from 15th in the rankings to world No.7 and a career pay day of $1.725 million.

Aryna Sabalenka

Age: 25
Born: Minsk, Belarus
Height: 182cm
Ranking: 2
Plays: right-handed (two-handed backhand)
Career prize money: $US20,512,563
Career titles: 14
Career win-loss record: 371-175
Grand slam titles: 2 (Australian Open 2023, 2024)
Grand slam win-loss record: 66-22
Australian Open win-loss record: 22-5
Best Australian Open results: champion 2023, 2024
Coach: Anton Dubrov

Road to title:

1st rd: bt Ella Seidel (GER) 6-0 6-1
2nd rd: bt Brenda Fruhvirtova (CZE) 6-3 6-2
3rd rd: bt 32-Lesia Tsurenko (UKR) 6-0 6-0
4th rd: bt Amanda Anisimova (USA) 6-3 6-2
QF: bt 9-Barbora Krejcikova (CZE) 6-2 6-3
SF: bt 4-Coco Gauff (USA) 7-6 (7-2) 6-4
F: bt 12-Zheng Qinwen (CHN) 6-3 6-2