Dominant since the start of the Australian Open tennis tournament, Aryna Sabalenka did not release the pressure when it came time to conclude. Facing the Chinese Qinwen Zheng (15th in the world), who was playing in the first final of her career in a Grand Slam tournament, the Belarusian, world number 2, continued her momentum. Winner in two sets (6-3, 6-2) and 1 hour 16 minutes of play in the final, Saturday January 27, the defending champion retained her crown in Melbourne and proved, at the same time, her change in dimension.

Often betrayed by her nerves in big matches while she has been in the global top 10 since 2019, Sabalenka finally seems to have taken the measure of her tennis. She went through the competition like a tornado, without conceding a single round to any of her opponents.

Only four players have achieved such a feat since the early 2000s: Ashleigh Barty in 2022, Serena Williams in 2017, Maria Sharapova in 2008, and Lindsay Davenport in 2000.

Without a glance at the trophy as she left the corridor to enter a packed Rod Laver Arena before the start of the match, the Belarusian ignored all emotion to quickly take control of this final. Distributing a powerful game from the baseline, combining heaviness and depth of balls, the right-hander overwhelmed Qinwen Zheng.

“When you play your first final, you get emotional and rush things sometimes, but when you’re in the final for the third time [in Grand Slam], you say to yourself, ‘okay, it’s a final, it’s is good,” she said before confronting the 21-year-old Chinese woman.

Qinwen Zheng, broken from the start, seemed completely inhibited. She suffered from an irregular service – six double faults – and her numerous unforced errors. Aryna Sabalenka only had doubts in the last minutes of the match, using match points five times before finishing.

Erase Brisbane defeat

This second Grand Slam title marks a turning point in the career of the Belarusian who seems to have swept aside her doubts, she who was suffering terrible slumps. In Melbourne, Sabalenka remained in her bubble, evacuating the memories of her defeats in the semi-finals of the last Roland-Garros and Wimbeldon. From the US Open, too, when the crowd got the better of their nerves in the final against Coco Gauff.

Her rout, in the final of the tournament in Brisbane (Australia), on January 7, had left its mark: that day, she was crushed by Elena Rybakina (6-0, 6-3). Enough to sound revolt. “I put a little pressure on my team [after this missed meeting],” she explained on Saturday.

“I couldn’t imagine lifting this trophy a second time,” concluded the winner of the day. Often my speech becomes weird, strange, but I thank my team and everyone. » Aryna Sabalenka becomes the first player to retain her title on Australian soil since her compatriot Victoria Azarenka in 2013.