A top tennis commentator has called for an Australian Open tradition to be scrapped after Zheng Qinwen was caught up in brutal scenes following her defeat to Aryna Sabalenka in the women’s singles final on Saturday night.
As TV viewers watched the two-time champion celebrate and watched replays of the decisive points in the match, Zheng was left to reflect on her defeat herself as she waited for a stage to be built for the trophy ceremony.
Catherine Whitaker, host of The Tennis Podcast, saw what the Chinese underdog went through and came away completely unimpressed.
“Poor Zheng Qinwen, who had to sit with her face in her towel as they set up a stage at the Rod Laver Arena to hold the ceremony,” she said.
“All the other (grand) slams do that, apart from Wimbledon, which just does a mat and a series of balls.
“You guys don’t need a stage.
The aftermath of her loss to Aryna Sabalenka (right) in the Open final was hard enough for Zheng Qinwen (left) without the run-up to the trophy ceremony adding insult to injury.
The Chinese star was clearly devastated as she was left to contemplate the biggest loss of her professional career alone as a temporary stage was built at Rod Laver Arena
‘It (the stage) was just a big “AO”. I know it’s our privilege to be in the stadium and you know, we don’t have all the slow-mos (slow-motion replays) and the knowledge that people at home are looking at in that period.
‘For us it’s more stark because we’re just sitting there looking at a ruined player on a chair while a load of dignitaries are standing on the sidelines and a bunch of young men are setting up furniture and then on top of the pieces crawl. of furniture and start polishing.
“It seems quite strange when you take yourself out of it for a moment.”
Whitaker’s co-host Matt Roberts agreed to “petition to stop it” when he called for the tradition to be dumped.
After the trophy ceremony was over, a broken Zheng admitted she had not played to her full potential, but vowed to return and try to go one better in Melbourne.
‘I didn’t do my best. It’s a real shame for me because I really want to show better than that.’
She rallied from an early blitz, lost her opening serve, then failed to take advantage of three break points to put the set back on serve.
Leading tennis commentator Catherine Whitaker and her co-host Matt Roberts have called for the Australian Open to follow Wimbledon’s lead and do away with the stage in future (pictured)
TV viewers did not see Zheng endure her lonely aftermath of the match as the broadcast switched to Sabalenka’s jubilant celebrations and replays of key parts of the contest
“I think in this match I start pretty slow,” Zheng said.
‘The difference is the start, I can’t hold the service game. Then later, when I got the chance to break up her 40-love and I can’t make it.
“You know, that moment makes the game so different.
“She is a very aggressive player and if you let a chance go, it will happen like today.”
Zheng’s consolation is a rise from 15th in the rankings to world No.7, a career-high payday of $1.725 million and an army of new fans.
Zheng reached her first Grand Slam final, breaking her previous best of a quarter-final against Sabalenka at the US Open, and said the Australian Open was a tournament to remember.
She topped Melbourne Park’s aces score, sending off 54 – exactly double the next best woman, who happened to be Sabalenka.
Zheng (pictured with Sabalenka) vowed to return to Melbourne and go one better after falling at the final hurdle
Zheng said she will reflect on her performance to try to do even better in the future.
“I really enjoyed playing in this Australian Open,” she said.
‘It was a great memory for me and I’m sure there will be more and better ones in the future.
‘Maybe I need to work more on my tennis, also work more on my mental side, work more on myself to get through this moment.
‘Cause if you lose, there has to be a reason why you lose, and we have to try to find out why.
“I think I can learn more today with the loss, and then I just hope next time I can come back as a better tennis player and come back stronger.”