Misc Tennis

Sabalenka vs. Zheng — Who will win the Australian Open women’s title?

Sabalenka vs. Zheng -- Who will win the Australian Open women's title?

Can defending champ Aryna Sabalenka win her second Grand Slam title on Saturday? Or will first-time major finalist Zheng Qinwen complete the ultimate upset?

Our experts make their predictions for Saturday’s Australian Open women’s final (3:30 a.m. ET; ESPN and ESPN+).

Pam Shriver: Sabalenka will win because her power game and overall confidence has never been at a higher level. She has won 13 matches in a row at Melbourne Park, including winning last year’s final versus Elena Rybakina in one of the best women’s major finals ever played. She just avenged her US Open loss to Coco Gauff with a spectacular closing surge in the semifinals. Sabalenka’s serve in two years has gone from being an embarrassment, with one of the worst service yips ever, to one of the best serves in women’s tennis.

Bill Connelly: Until she runs into an actual challenge, all she has to do is play her game. She has won 20 of 22 sets in 2024. She’s holding serve more than she ever has, with more aces, fewer double-faults and more first serves in. She’s breaking serve far more than she ever has and winning more than 50% of return points. She’s been untouchable aside from a finals dud against Elena Rybakina in Brisbane. It’s up to Zheng to prove she can meet this ridiculously high level; until then Sabalenka doesn’t have to change a thing.

D’Arcy Maine: Exactly what she has been doing throughout the fortnight. Sabalenka has had an incredible run back to the final, dominating her opponents with her explosive power and staying aggressive until the last point has been won. She has yet to drop a set. After her semifinal win, Sabalenka admitted she had played “a little bit passive tennis” during her loss in the US Open final in September and said she eased up the pressure on Gauff.

But in her rematch with Gauff on Thursday, Sabalenka made sure not to make the same mistakes. Even after blowing a 5-2 lead in the opening set, Sabalenka held her nerve and won the set in a tiebreak. That mentality shift — and continuing to play her game — could be the difference on Saturday. Now playing in her third major final, and second in Melbourne, Sabalenka knows exactly what she needs to do to win when the stakes are highest. With experience on her side, she said she would be able to treat it like “just another match.” If her first six matches in Melbourne are any indication, that strategy should work just fine.

Jake Michaels: It’s simple: continue playing aggressive, confident tennis. Sabalenka has…

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