Sabalenka is the defending Australian Open champion. This is a familiar setting and circumstance for her. She has also bulldozed through her matches getting to the final with the most recent being a straight-set win over Coco Gauff. Sabalenka's game plan is to hit hard and fast and to get Zheng out of position to return shots. All of that is contingent upon clean service games and minimal unforced errors.
Zheng has never been in this setting so butterflies and nerves would be natural. Her strategy will be to use her athleticism to run down everything Sabalenka sends her way. Zheng's serve is vulnerable so she needs to deliver more first serves so that Sabalenka cannot capitalize on second serves. Zheng's coach Pere Riba just coached Coco Gauff to a 2023 US Open win over Aryna Sabalenka so he knows she can be defeated.
Who wins the match: Aryna Sabalenka or Qinwen Zheng?
This is Sabalenka's match to lose. She is the odds-on favorite to win in straight sets. First strike tennis with minimal rallies will be the priority for Sabalenka; rallies could allow Zheng into the match because she is a good athlete with a hack shot that keeps the ball in play at times when no one expects. Will nerves set in for Sabalenka because the expectations are so high? Will Zheng come out free-swinging with nothing to lose? Aryna Sabalenka has been preparing for this title defense since she left Melbourne last year with her maiden Grand Slam. Nothing is going to get in her way. Sabalenka wins 6-2, 6-2, becoming the first back-to-back Australian Open champion since her Belarusian compatriot Victoria Azarenka in 2012 and 2013..