Aryna Sabalenka in the final of the 2020 WTA Abu Dhabi Women's Tennis Open, UAE
Aryna Sabalenka in the final of the 2020 WTA Abu Dhabi Women's Tennis Open, UAE | (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)

Tennis | Australian Open 2024 | Aryna Sabalenka seeks successful title defence against first-time finalist Zheng

By Tony Fairbairn

  • Aryna Sabalenka [2] v Qinwen Zheng [12]
  • H2H: Sabalenka leads 1-0
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – Aryna Sabalenka looks to successfully defend her Australian Open title when she takes on first-time Grand Slam finalist Qinwen Zheng in the women’s singles final.

 

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Aryna Sabalenka [2] v Qinwen Zheng [12] H2H & Match Fundamentals

Aryna Sabalenka’s title defence has been successful so far with the world number two yet to drop a set after gaining her revenge from the US Open over Coco Gauff. Now Sabalenka searches for her second Grand Slam title and prove that she is a consistent player at the big stages that can win regular titles. Standing in Sabalenka’s way is 12th seed Qinwen Zheng who is into her first Grand Slam final after a straight sets win over qualifier Dayana Yastremska.

Aryna Sabalenka [2] v Qinwen Zheng [12]     H2H: Sabalenka leads 1-0
Australian Open 2024 Melbourne, Australia  
Hard (O) Prize Money: $1,725,000/$3,150,000
Third on Rod Laver Arena (Not before 08:30 GMT) Discovery+ Add-on via Amazon Prime

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Sabalenka has had the tougher draw but has risen to the occasion in emphatic fashion. Meanwhile Zheng is yet to play a top 50 player but has had to hold her nerve and overcome high pressure situations in order to reach her first Grand Slam final.

Aryna Sabalenka [2] route to the final

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R1: Ella Seidel [Q] 6-0 6-1

R2: Brenda Fruhvirtova [Q] 6-3 6-2

R3: Lesia Tsurenko [28] 6-0 6-0

R4: Amanda Anisimova 6-3 6-2

QF: Barbora Krejcikova [9] 6-2 6-3

SF: Coco Gauff [4] 7-6(2) 6-4

Qinwen Zheng [12] route to the final

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R1: Ashlyn Krueger 3-6 6-2 6-3

R2: Katie Boulter 6-3 6-3

R3: Yafan Wang 6-4 2-6 7-6(10-8)

R4: Oceane Dodin 6-0 6-3

QF: Anna Kalinskaya 6-7(4) 6-3 6-1

SF: Dayana Yastremska [Q] 6-4 6-4

 

Tale of the Tape – Key Stats (2024)

H2H: Aryna Sabalenka (WR 2) Qinwen Zheng (WR 15)
Tournament Previous Best Champion (2023) R2 (2022, 2023)  
1st Serve Return Points Won % 45.7 39.1
Return Points Won % 54 45.8
Break Point Conversion % 56 50.9
Break Points Saved % 50 62.2
Overall Service Points Won % 69.3 62.9

Sabalenka has been the more efficient player on serve and return but that will be put to the test in the final against Zheng’s clutch serving under pressure.

 

 

Playing Styles and Prediction

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Sabalenka’s first Grand Slam title defence couldn’t have gone any better so far as the world number two is yet to drop a set in Melbourne.

Now Sabalenka looks to become the first player since compatriot Victoria Azarenka to successfully defend the women’s singles title at the Australian Open.

Speaking ahead of the final, Sabalenka spoke about her mindset heading into Saturday’s showdown and said she will be ready to fight.

“I would say emotionally I’ll be… very ready to fight, not going crazy,” Sabalenka told the Australian Open website.

“Because when you play first final you get emotional and rushing things sometimes. When you’re third time in the finals, you’re, like, ‘okay, it’s a final, it’s okay’.

“It’s just another match, and you’re able to separate yourself from that thing. Just focus on your game. That’s it, actually… I’m defending champion, but worst case, I’m, like, ‘okay, I’m gonna lose this tournament, and it’s less points to defend next year’. Then that’s it.

“That’s kind of like helping me to just stay focused and just try your best in each match without thinking about defending something.”

In the final Sabalenka will face Zheng, who is into her first Grand Slam final after holding her nerve throughout the tournament.

The 12th seed has had to overcome big pressure as she is yet to face a top 50 opponent and is now looking to claim her first Grand Slam title.

After her win over Yastremska, Zheng described the feeling of reaching the final as ‘unbelievable’  but admits that she doesn’t want the journey to end here.

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“It feels unbelievable,” Zheng told the Australian Open website.

“I’m super-excited to have such a great performance today and arrive in the final. That’s my dream since I was a kid.

“Can’t be more special than here in Australian Open. I’m really happy, but I know there is still another fight to go.”

Sabalenka will look to continue to find cross-court winners on the backhand as she will aim to dictate the tempo of the match on serve.

Zheng will look to use depth and remain consistent under pressure on serve as the 12th seed will aim to overcome early nerves to dictate play from the baseline.

The experience of Sabalenka will be crucial as Zheng will be nervous at the start of the match with this being her first Grand Slam final.

Although Sabalenka is more than capable of capitulating in the big moments, the world number two has been playing too well not to win the title.

Prediction: Sabalenka in straight sets.  

 

 

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