Misc Tennis

Aryna Sabalenka rolls to 2nd straight Australian Open title

Aryna Sabalenka rolls to 2nd straight Australian Open title

MELBOURNE, Australia — World No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka produced a near-flawless performance to win her second straight Australian Open crown, defeating China’s Zheng Qinwen 6-3, 6-2 in the women’s final Saturday.

Dominant from the outset, the defending champion blasted her way through Zheng’s service games on three occasions, sealing the win in 1 hour, 16 minutes to become the first woman to go back-to-back in Melbourne since Belarusian compatriot Victoria Azarenka in 2012 and 2013.

Sabalenka’s second Grand Slam title caps a dominant fortnight, after she won a perfect 14 of 14 sets and dropped just 31 games throughout the run.

Zheng, the 12th seed in Australia, was playing in her first Grand Slam final and seemed to feel the pressure from her first service game. Sabalenka broke for a 2-0 advantage and, despite looking like giving the break right back, rallied to save three break point opportunities and hold for a rapid 3-0 lead.

For the rest of the first set, Sabalenka was unrelenting on her service games, winning all but one point on her first serves and not giving Zheng a further break point look.

The second set started much the same; Sabalenka broke in the first game courtesy of three Zheng double faults. That gave Sabalenka the edge in the second set that was she quickly capitalized on to put the contest all but out of reach.

A protest briefly delayed the match as Zheng started to find rhythm on serve, but as in the first set, it was too late.

Sabalenka broke again in the fifth game, and not long after, served the match — her five games conceded the fewest in an Australian Open final since Azarenka gave up three in 2012.

Sabalenka said she was thrilled with her level of play both in the final and throughout the fortnight in Melbourne and relieved that she was able to show that her one Grand Slam title was not a fluke.

“[Zheng is] a great player and very tough opponent. I’m super happy that I was able to get this win today,” she said in her postmatch news conference. “I wanted to show that I’m able to be consistently there and I’m able to win another [Grand Slam]. I really hope that [I can win]…

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