Doubts may have swelled surrounding Aryna Sabalenka after she failed to convert potential title winning positions at Roland Garros and the US Open. But those demons have been banished as the Queen of Melbourne reigns supreme for yet another year with back-to-back Australian Open titles heading the way of the Belarusian.
Sabalenka faced Qinwen Zheng in the final of the Australian Open and brushed aside the first-time finalist who could not deal with the raw power on display of her opponent and the difference in class was very much evident as she took the win in just over an hour 6-3, 6-2 in a similar scoreline to their meeting at the US Open last year.
It was ominous from the very start as Sabalenka easily broke the serve of Qinwen Zheng almost immediately. Like many, the Chinese ace struggled to deal with the sheer power of Sabalenka as she went 2-0 down with a break.
A combined number of unforced errors and some Sabalenka brilliance saw her go 3-0 up and despite getting on the board, that break still held the difference as well as the power of the racquet of the former World Number One. She earned easy points every time when serving out to the Zheng forehand side and was almost unplayable as she took comfortable hold after comfortable hold to make it 5-2. She took the opening set with yet another unreturned serve out wide seeing her go 40-15 up and from there, Zheng returned one but not the other as Sabalenka took the set 6-3.
A mini wobble occurred again for Zheng which was the start of the end as she went 30-0 in the opening service game and hit back-to-back double faults to head towards handing her the break and Sabalenka went 2-0 up. Qinwen continued to try and solve the puzzle but was swiftly running out of time as a crowd disturbance with Free Palestine protesters also not helping the cause.
She was given a glimmer on the Sabalenka serve, but this was snuffed out as she held to make it 3-1 and go halfway to the title. The second serve of Zheng which troubled her against Yastremska also started to break down as Sabalenka feasted on a poor service game to make it 4-1. She went to the brink at 5-1 but just as it looked like she was going to win the title at 5-2 going 40-0 up, Qinwen showed a late sign of life. She saved four match points and brought up a break point only for Sabalenka to take away the opportunity and she finally got over the line on her fifth match point.