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China's Qinwen Zheng downcast by Aryna Sabalenka reality check in Melbourne final

Qinwen Zheng will rise into the top 10 when the rankings are updated.
Qinwen Zheng will rise into the top 10 when the rankings are updated. Reuters
China's Qinwen Zheng (21) 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 (25) in the Australian Open final on Saturday.

The 12th seed, 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 Chinese player 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.

Match stats
Match statsFlashscore

"Maybe I have to work more on my tennis, also work more on my mental side, work more on myself to be able to get through this moment," she added.

"Because if you lose, there must be a reason behind why you lose, and we have to try to figure out why and then come back stronger and better next time.

"I think I can learn more with the loss today, and then I just hope next time I can come back as a better tennis player, and come back stronger."

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