China’s Zheng Qinwen said she was bitterly disappointed not to have shown her best tennis as she was blown off the Rod Laver Arena court by Aryna Sabalenka in the Australian Open final on Saturday.
The 21-year-old, playing her first Grand Slam final and hoping to emulate her childhood hero Li Na’s 2014 triumph at Melbourne Park, showed her best game only fleetingly as Sabalenka retained the title with a crushing 6-3 6-2 win.
“I didn’t play my tennis there,” the 12th seed told reporters.
“Yeah, I mean, she’s obviously aggressive, but I had to hold more of the ball off her, and at the same time be as aggressive as she was.
“And today’s match, I didn’t perform my best. That’s a real pity for me, because I really want to show better than that.”
After being broken in the second game of the match, Zheng had a chance to put the set back on serve immediately only for Sabalenka to rattle off five straight points, saving three break points and holding.
“When I got the chance to break her 40-Love up and I’m not able to make it, that little moment makes the match so different,” she recalled.
“Playing against Sabalenka at this level, if you don’t take these chances the match will get away from you really fast. She’s a really aggressive player. If you let a chance go, it will happen like it did today.”
Zheng was voted the WTA’s most improved player last year and had pundits purring over her serve and heavy forehand as she made her way through the soft top half of the draw.
She might take some comfort from the fact that Li, the first Chinese player to win a Grand Slam, was not even playing tennis at the age of 21, having dropped out of the sport to go to university.
Zheng, who will enter the top 10 in the world when the next rankings are issued, said she felt a little positive that she had made the final in her ninth Grand Slam.
Overall, though, the margin of defeat was a chastening reality check at how much more work she needed to do on her game to compete with the best. – Reuters