The first Grand Slam title of the season will be won on Saturday morning when the next Asian superstar Qinwen Zheng goes up against the defending champion Aryna Sabalenka in the final of the Australian Open.
Sabalenka will be looking for her second Grand Slam title on the Rod Laver Arena while Qinwen will be looking to climb the highest mountain in the sport for the first time and it will be interesting to see if she can lay it down to the defending champion.
I guess you would have to call Qinwen Zheng a surprise finalist in this tournament even though when it is done and dusted she will be sat in the top 10 of the world rankings. One thing you would have to point out is that her portion of the draw has significantly opened up for her thanks to the efforts of others rather than anything she has done of her own accord. Others got rid of the likes of Iga Swiatek and Elina Rybakina but that isn’t really her problem. She has beaten what is in front of her, which is all she can do.
The fact does remain though that Katie Boulter at number 54 in the world rankings is the highest ranked opponent the Chinese ace has met in this tournament so she goes heavily up in class when taking on the number two seed. Qinwen has only surrendered two sets in this tournament but her second serve remains an uneasy watch and it will be under heavy pressure here so how she goes about defending that could determine the outcome of this final.
You have to say that Aryna Sabalenka has looked the winner in waiting from a long way out in this tournament. She is yet to drop a set in the competition and the only sets she has been taken beyond nine games were the two she played against Coco Gauff in the semi-final where she won 76 64 in what was actually a little more comfortable than the score in games suggested as she led 5-2 in that opening set before getting a touch of the collywobbles in getting over the line.
Ultimately though, the Belarusian did come through that and she should benefit from having had that blip as it will focus her mind if she gets into a similar position here. Sabalenka now knows how to win a Grand Slam and so she does look a very worthy favourite for this match. She has hit the ball cleaner than anyone this week and any challenge that has come her way, and she has been so good that there haven’t been many, have been brushed aside with relative ease.
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These two women have only met on one previous occasion and they will actually be competing in the second Grand Slam in succession after their other meeting came at the US Open where they did battle in the quarter final. Aryna Sabalenka won in straight sets on the occasion and dropped just five games in the process so Qinwen Zheng will hope things are different this time around.
I don’t know if Aryna Sabalenka will dominate Qinwen Zheng to quite the extent that she did when these two met at the US Open but I do think she will win the match and have a comfortable margin at the end of it. She has dominated everyone in her path apart from Coco Gauff and she was on her way to dominating her at 5-2 in the opening set as well before the jitters hit. Those nerves are a concern and while I want Sabalenka firmly on side I want her with me in a bet that allows a little wiggle room for some set closing nerves.
The bet I like therefore is for Zheng to win under 8.5 games. That means if Sabalenka does struggle to close either set out and has to go all the way to a breaker she would still cover this bet if she wins 6-2 in the other one. When you consider the opening set in their previous meeting was 6-1 then something similar would need Zheng to win a set to cover the line. I don’t see that happening. While Sabalenka might be nervous the Chinese star surely will be too and if that gets into her first serve and the champion gets plenty of looks at the second serve this could go west for Zheng much quicker than she would like. Even if Zheng remains respectable a 64 64 score isn’t out of the question so I’ll take Sabalenka to win before her opponent reaches nine games.
Back Q.Zheng – Under 8.5 games for a 3/10 stake at 1.73 with Bet365