AUCKLAND, New Zealand – Serena Williams broke a three-year drought when she defeated Jessica Pegula 6-3 and 6-4 on Sunday to win the ASB Classic final.
Williams had not won a title since the Australian Open in January 2017, and not since she became the mother of her daughter Olympia, who witnessed the victory in court.
The 23-time major winner donated her winning check of $ 43,000 to the fundraiser for victims of Australian wildfires and joined many other tennis stars like Ash Barty, Nick Kygrios, Novak Djokovic and Maria Sharapova who have spent months on the campaign. long fire emergency there.
Williams was initially under pressure against 25-year-old Pegula, who played in her third WTA final, but continued to assert herself later in the game to claim her 73rd win in 98 finals and a cup she won with her Names to occupy Sister Venus, in 2015.
"It feels good. It was a long time ago," said Williams. "I think you can see the relief on my face.
"I played an incredible opponent in Jessica today and frankly it was a great game and I couldn't have played better against anyone in the final."
The past three years have been challenging for Williams when she juggled with competing tennis and maternity requirements. But she seemed to have had a difficult week in which she played both doubles and singles and failed on all seven days of the tournament.
She was often lagging behind in her games, but showed her typical determination to fight her way through to the final and defeat Pegula, who replaced former world number 1 Caroline Wozniacki in the semi-finals.
Pegula has been on the rise since overcoming a serious knee injury two years ago. The daughter of Buffalo Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula won their first WTA title in 2019 and appeared to be a star on the rise in all their games in Auckland.
Pegula interrupted Williams in the opening game and was dominant in the first half of the first set. She moved Williams around to open the field for her punishing passes. She also chased everything behind and returned something that Williams thought was out of her reach.
But Williams visibly asked himself to rise in the middle of the set and get to a level with 3: 3. Then she served to love Pegula and broke it 5: 3, serving the first set in 51 minutes.
Williams broke Pegula in the third game of the second set when she started to dominate. She had three match points on Pegula's serve before ending the match on the serve in just over 90 minutes.
"It definitely feels good," said Williams. "I feel like I've definitely improved over the week."
Williams may have had two titles on the same day, but she and her long-time friend, first-time partner Caroline Wozniacki, were beaten 6-4, 6-4 by Americans Taylor Townsend and Asia Muhammad in the double finals.
Wozniacki played her penultimate tournament before her retirement – the Australian Open will be her last – and in Auckland she had the long-held ambition to work with Williams in doubles.
The two easily reached the final, but were overwhelmed on Sunday by Townsend and Muhammad, who were a practiced and more efficient combination. The young Americans broke the two former No. 1 singles in the third and seventh games of the first set and took the only break in the second set in the third game.