Sabalenka manages to repeat as monarch at the Australian Open

MELBOURNE.- In your subconscious Aryna Sabalenka He didn’t want to be, in his own words, the person who wins a major and disappears.

Winning his first Grand Slam trophy last year in Australia It gave Sabalenka confidence that she could repeat. Losing the US Open final in September gave him motivation.

Sabalenka ensured she won’t be a one-hit wonder, winning back-to-back Australian Open titles with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Zheng Qinwen on Saturday in a lopsided final that contrasted with her comeback to beat Elena Rybakina of the year. past.

“I just wanted to show that I am capable of being consistent and that I have the ability to win another one,” he said. “So compared to last year, I am different. Compared to the US Open, again, I’m a completely new person; I’m more in control and I don’t let other things come to mind.”

In 2022, Sabalenka had problems with her serve in tense moments and even doubted that she could win a major. Now it is his strength to break his rivals. He had no double faults in the final and no break points.

The second seed set the tone of the match with strong, long forehands and converted breaks of serve at the start of each set against Zheng, 21, who made her Grand Slam finals debut.

The journey and destination were equally important to Sabalenka.

In the semifinal she avenged her US Open final loss to Coco Gauff in straight sets. This after she also beat French Open 2021 winner Barbora Krejcikova in straight sets in the quarterfinals and Amanda Anisimova in the fourth round.

“I am definitely a different person and a player with more experience in the last rounds of the Grand Slams,” she indicated in her reflection of the last 13 months. “There were some tough moments like the loss in the US Open final — but that loss really motivated me to work harder.”

Only two things stopped Sabalenka’s progress toward her second Grand Slam singles title on Saturday.

In the third game of the second set, with Zheng serving, the match was interrupted by the shouts of an activist. It resumed when security guards escorted the man out of the stadium.

Then, with 5-2 in favor and 40-0 on the board, Sabalenka had three match points with her serve, but she missed two with forehands that went long and another due to an intelligent drop shot by Zheng.

After giving Zheng a break point, the Belarusian bounced the ball in disgust, but regained her composure and won the next three points.

Sabalenka is the first woman to repeat as winner at Melbourne Park since Victoria Azarenka — who did so in 2012 and 2013 — and the fifth since 2000 to win the title without losing a set, a group that also includes Serena Williams .

Credit where credit is due for Sabalenka:

She credited her team’s support for keeping her focused and making sure she enjoyed the moment. Sabalenka made it a tradition to slap and autograph the bald head of his coach, Jason Stacy, after every match in Australia.

After the final, Stacy wore a T-shirt with the message on the back: “Simplicity is the key to genius” and held a trophy on the court while Sabalenka joined her team to celebrate.

A decade after Li Na held the Australian Open trophy, Zheng had his best performance in nine majors. During the tournament she said that she felt supported in Melbourne because of the large Chinese community and that was evident in the final with all the flags and support from those in attendance.

But she faced an opponent from the top 50 for the first time in the tournament.

It was the second time in as many majors that the paths of the two tennis players crossed in the second week.

Last year, Sabalenka beat Zheng in the quarterfinals of the US Open, where she lost the final to American Coco Gauff.

Zheng became the first player in four decades to advance six rounds without facing a top-50 player.

The jump against Sabalenka, who is the second seed, was too much.

“I didn’t have my best performance. It’s a shame for me, because I really wanted to prove something better,” Zheng admitted. “I think I can learn from the defeat and I hope that next time I can come back as a better and stronger tennis player.”