Sabalenka dominates Zheng, repeat as Australian Open women's singles champ


Jan. 27 (UPI) -- Aryna Sabalenka repeated as the Australian Open women's singles champion on Saturday, dispatching Zheng Qinwen in straight sets 6-3, 6-2 at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne.

The world No. 2 became the first back-to-back AO champion since Victoria Azarenka won in 2012 and 2013 and the second player in the Open era to win her first two majors in Australia.

The Belarusian star zipped past her Chinese opponent by winning 84% of first serve points and saved each of the four break points she faced in a dominating performance -- the most one-sided singles final win in Melbourne since Azarenka dropped just three games against Maria Sharapova in 2012.

Sabalenka was presented with the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup by Australian great Evonne Goolagong Cawley on the 50th anniversary of the her first Australian Open victory.

"Thank you Evonne for being such an inspiration for all of us and receiving this beautiful trophy from you is a pleasure for me," Sabalenka said.

She came into the competition with the second seed following her performance in September at the U.S. Open, where she advanced to the final before falling to American Coco Gauff.

"It's been an amazing couple of weeks and I couldn't imagine myself lifting this trophy one more time," Sabalenka added, telling her family, "I love you so much and you're my biggest motivation, and everything I'm doing, I'm doing for you."

She became the fifth player since 2000 to win an Australian Open without dropping a set, notching her 14th career title 12th on a hard court.

Zheng, meanwhile, is the first Chinese player to compete in a major singles final since Li Na won in Melbourne in 2014.