After two weeks, the Australian Open has provided electrifying matches, upsets, and drama all around. On Saturday 27 January, Aryna Sabalenka will battle with Zheng Qunwen for a prestigious title. Sabalenka will be a huge favorite to clinch the title, especially after having defeated Coco Gaufff in the last round. Meanwhile, Zheng will carry hopes of the Asian nation as set to become the first continental tournament winner after a decade-long wait.
For the whole of last year, Aryna Sabalenka has spent it trying to overcome many things to become one of the best players in the world at the moment. In the past, she was known for allowing emotions to get over her which delayed her progress even though was possessed great skills on the court. Plus, handling nerves in big games where she was tipped to prevail top has been another problem for her. In a clash against Coco Gauff, it looks like the demons are coming back, especially in the first set, throwing in the advantage before recovering nicely to win 7-6, 6-2 in the sold-out Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne Park.
In the 2023 US Open final, Sabalenka allowed Gauff to come from a set down to record a remarkable comeback. Now the 25-year-old Belarusian International has been on top of the world at the moment. She is playing eye-catching tennis that has got fans needing more. On her en route to the final, she is yet to drop the set with all her previous opponents being given a huge thumping. Now, she got a chance to rewrite history by becoming the first player after Victoria Azarenka since 2013 to successfully defend the Australian crown. She has reached the semi-finals in the last six Grand Slams and made it to the finals on three occasions. Plus, she was the first woman to be a finalist in the US Open and then go on to achieve the same feat in Australia after Kim Clijsters, who did it in 2011. So, the second-seeded player has a chance to break other records.
But in her quest to do so, she has to go past Zheng. Speaking of records, Zheng too has set up her own on the road to the final. The 21-year-old Chinese ace has already become the fourth country’s women’s player to reach the semi-finals round after Li Na, Peng Shuai, and Zheng Jie. Now she has joined an exclusive club of becoming the second Chinese player to reach the Australian final after Li Na, who won it in 2014. The World number 15 has a perfect chance to emulate her idol. So, this match matters most to her Asian continent more than to her. In the semi-final clash, she ended a qualifier Dayana Yastremska fairy tale run with the dominant and composed 6-4, 6-4 victory.
Zheng has rediscovered her form back since re-uniting with coach Pere Riba. The pair worked together between 2021 to 2023 when Zheng managed to break into the top 50 in the world. Riba, who is also a former Gauff coach, has got a chance to win back-to-back titles and put some achievements on his profile. On the back of Zheng’s mind is the huge mountain to climb to claim the maiden Grand Slam title of her career. So, every point and focus will play a huge factor in the game.