Aryna Sabalenka had a 5-2 lead in the second set of the women’s singles final at the Australian Open and appeared to be quickly approaching a victory.
In the majority of the match, the Belarusian player was in control during the final game. They were ahead 40-0 and had three opportunities to win the match as the defending champion. The engraver was prepared with their tools.
“Come on,” one fan exclaimed, the familiar chant of encouragement from Chinese sports fans. “Go for it,” another echoed. They were cheering for Zheng Qinwen, who will achieve a world top 10 ranking for the first time following this tournament.
The 21-year-old player, who easily advanced without playing against any other highly-ranked players, seemed to gain momentum. She saved one match point, then another, and a third. This was the first time Sabalenka showed frustration. The 15,000 ticket holders who paid to watch finally got their money’s worth as this was the most competitive match of the night.
The players were engaged in a duel, and Zheng showed no signs of backing down. Sabalenka made a mistake and expressed her annoyance by rolling her eyes. Two points later, she threw a ball in frustration. She couldn’t help but wonder how much longer she would have to stay in this match.
For those in attendance and the millions tuning in, a longer match would have been appreciated. After all, Tennis Australia’s chair, Jayne Hrdlicka, described the Australian Open as one of the top entertainment and sports events in the world.
The competition was commemorating the attendance of one million supporters during the previous three weeks, setting a new record for spectators. However, at the start of the game, event organizers appeared hesitant about allowing one young lady to enter. Wearing a cap and a Golden State Warriors jersey, she was reprimanded by security for cheering too loudly. She was seated near the VIP section, causing concern for the ushers that she may be causing a disturbance. While it may have a rich history, Rod Laver Arena is known for maintaining a certain level of decorum.
Upon further examination, it is evident that the event has a strong international presence. Sponsors from various continents are involved, including one representing a Chinese alcoholic beverage. Additionally, there were numerous Chinese flags in the audience, with enthusiastic Zheng fans proudly displaying them.
The flag of Zheng’s opponent from Belarus has been prohibited due to the country’s involvement in the invasion of Ukraine. This security measure sheds light on the intricate political intricacies that are largely overlooked at Melbourne Park.
China and Belarus may not be known for their exemplary global citizenship, but officials have found success in Sabalenka and Zheng. They are both popular and marketable players on the tour, with exceptional racket skills. In addition, they have displayed friendly and gracious behavior in their post-match speeches, and have made impressive achievements on the court.
The game was no different, and the audience often gasped at the intensity of the powerful shots being exchanged. Despite Zheng’s obvious struggle – she was broken in her first service game in both sets – the Chinese player managed to hit more winning shots than Sabalenka. However, her second serve was a weakness that ultimately cost her.
Despite being the defending champion, Sabalenka has a friendly rapport with the audience at Melbourne Park. However, it was Zheng who received more enthusiastic support, possibly aided by her green and gold dress. As she struggled to keep up with Sabalenka, the underdog gained even more favor.
Although the Australian Open is often referred to as the “happy slam” and is considered to be a major event for the Asia-Pacific region, not everyone was welcomed there. Two protestors disrupted the match during the second set by displaying a Palestine flag. The crowd responded with boos and the protestors were eventually ejected. Shortly after, Zheng won a game and the cheers that followed seemed to express both relief and support.
Shortly after, during the lengthy and exciting final match, the audience was treated to something that pleased them. Sabalenka managed to overcome her frustration, displaying an ace and a nonchalant gesture to save a break point. She let out a scream of relief. Despite the relatively short duration of the match (76 minutes), it showcased exceptional tennis skills and concluded with a smile from Sabalenka.