To add insult to defeat, Zheng Qinwen was a lonely figure out on Rod Laver Arena as Aussie Open champion Aryna Sabalenka soaked in her victory.
Sabalenka was unstoppable in Saturday night’s final, blasting China’s Zheng off the court 6-3 6-2 in 76 minutes.
The Belarusian became the first women’s champion to defend her Aussie Open crown in 11 years and was beaming as she celebrated with her team and entourage.
Naturally, the TV coverage that went around the world followed Sabalenka in her moment of celebration.
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An absolutely devastated Zheng was seen only once as she stared into nothingness while sitting on her chair immediately after shaking hands with Sabalenka and the chair umpire.
The tradition of making Zheng sit there lifeless while tournament staff prepared things for the trophy ceremony has now been called out.
Zheng, the new world No. 7, looked distraught as the official podium was rapidly put together out on Rod Laver Arena as tournament officials and honoured guests walked out onto the court.
The sight of Zheng being forced to sit there for an extended period was all too cruel for tennis commentator Catherine Whitaker.
The host of the popular Tennis Podcast said on Saturday night: “Poor Zheng Qinwen, who had to sit with her face in her towel while they knocked up a stage on Rod Laver Arena on which to conduct the ceremony.
“All the other slams do this apart from Wimbledon, that just does a carpet and a line up of ball kids. You don’t need a stage guys.”
She went on to say: “It was just a big ‘AO’. I know it’s the privilege of us being in the stadium and we don’t have all the slomos (replay footage) and punditry that people at home are watching during that period.
“To us it’s more stark because we’re just sitting there watching a devastated player on a chair while load of dignitaries are standing at the side and a bunch of hench young me erect pieces of furniture and then climb onto pieces of furniture and start polishing the surface.
“It does look pretty weird when you take yourself out of it for a moment.”
Co-host Matt Roberts half-heartedly said he was starting a petition to stop the tradition.
The motion will certainly get plenty of support from the 20 million Chinese fans that watched Zheng get slaughtered.
After becoming just the second Chinese grand slam finalist following in the footsteps of two-time champion Li Na, the 21-year-old had an incredible run to make the final.
She did not hide her disappointment speaking after the match.
“It is my first final and I feel a bit of pity but that is how it is,” Zheng said.
“It is an experience for me. At the same time, I want to say thanks to all the fans who come to watch me.
“I feel — it is very complicated because I feel that I could have done better but I didn’t in this match.
“I really enjoyed to play in this Australia Open. It was an amazing memory for me and I’m sure there will be more and better in the future.”
Sabalenka also had words of encouragement for Zheng.
“I know this feeling — it is tough to lose in a final but you are such an incredible player, such a young girl. You are going to be in many more finals and you are going to get it,” she said.
Zheng, the No. 12 seed, was last year voted the most improved player on the WTA Tour and her future looks much brighter than Saturday night’s demolition job suggests.