Aryna Sabalenka breezes to Australian Open title

Second-seeded Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus successfully defended her Australian Open championship, trouncing 12th-seeded Qinwen Zheng of China 6-3, 6-2 in the final on Saturday.

Sabalenka, 25, saved all four break points she faced and won half of her six break opportunities. She was competing in her third career Grand Slam final, having defeated Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina for the title in Melbourne a year ago before losing in the U.S. Open final last summer to Coco Gauff.

Zheng, 21, got to a major final for the first time. She is set to become just the second Chinese player to crack the top 10 of the world rankings, joining Li Na.

“I’m speechless right now,” Sabalenka said in a news conference after the match. “I don’t know how to describe my emotions. But definitely I’m super, super happy and proud of everything I was able to achieve so far.

“Yeah, just happy with the level I played today. She’s a great player and very tough opponent. I’m super happy that I was able to get this win today.”

Sabalenka won the first three games of the match, then needed five set points over the final two games to seal the first set.

The second set began with Sabalenka breaking serve. Sabalenka didn’t take advantage of her first four championship points before finally closing out the victory in one hour, 16 minutes.

Winning a second title was a relief to Sabalenka, who said she didn’t want to be known as a one-hit wonder.

“Actually it’s been in my mind that I didn’t want to be that player who win [one Slam] and then disappeared,” Sabalenka said. “I just wanted to show that I’m able to be consistently there and I’m able to win another one. I really hope that more, more than two right now, but for me was really important.”

Sabalenka didn’t lose a set during the tournament, and she wasn’t in danger of doing so on Saturday, either, thanks to the early service breaks in each set.

Zheng said she was disappointed she couldn’t do more with her serve. She won 73 percent of her first-serve points compared to 94 percent for Sabalenka.

“To play against her, I think is so important to hold your own service game, because she had a really good serve, as well,” Zheng said in press afterward. “But I couldn’t do that, especially the beginning.

“Today’s match, I didn’t perform my best. That’s really [a] pity for me, because I really want to show better than that.”