Serena Williams poses with her trophy after winning the final match in Auckland on Sunday. Michael Bradley/AFP
Serena Williams broke a three-year title drought when she beat fellow American Jessica Pegula 6-3, 6-4 on Sunday to win the singles final at the ASB Classic.
Williams hadn't won a title since the Australian Open singles in January, 2017, and not since she became a mother to her daughter Olympia, who was court-side to see the victory.
The 23-time major winner donated her $43,000 winner's check to the fundraising appeal for victims of Australian wildfires, joining many other Tennis stars, such as Ash Barty, Nick Kygrios, Novak Djokovic and Maria Sharapova, who have pledged money to the already months-long fire emergency there.
Williams was under pressure at first against the 25-year-old Pegula, playing in her third WTA final, but asserted herself more as the match went on to claim her 73rd win in 98 finals and to add her name to a trophy won by her sister, Venus, in 2015.
"It feels good. It's been a long time," Williams said. "I think you can see the relief on my face.
"I played an incredible opponent today in Jessica and, honestly, it was a great match and I couldn't have played anyone better in the final."
The last three years have been challenging for Williams as she juggled to competing demands of Tennis and motherhood. But she seemed to turn a corner during a demanding week in which she played both doubles and singles, turning out on all seven days of the tournament.
She was frequently behind in her matches but showed typical determination to fight her way to the final and overcome Pegula, who ousted former World No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki in the semifinals.
Pegula has been on a steady climb up the rankings since overcoming a serious knee injury two years ago. The daughter of Buffalo Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula, she won her maiden WTA title in 2019 and appeared to be a star on the rise in all her matches in Auckland.
Pegula broke Williams in the opening game and was dominant for the first half of the first set, moving Williams around to open up the court for her punishing passing shots. She also chased down everything, making returns that Williams thought out of her reach.
But Williams visibly called on herself to lift near the middle of the set, breaking to level at 3-3. She then held serve to love and broke Pegula for 5-3, serving out the first set in 51 minutes.
Williams broke Pegula to love in the third game of the second set as she steadily began to dominate. She had three match points on Pegula's serve before clinching the match on serve in just over 90 minutes.
"It definitely feels good," Williams said. "It feels that I was definitely improving as the week went on.”
Tennis star Serena Williams has revealed that she has apologised to Japan's Naomi Osaka who defeated her in the finals of the US Open last year.
London: Andy Murray’s management team confirmed on Tuesday that the three-times Grand Slam singles champion will be joining forces with Serena Williams in the mixed doubles at Wimbledon this year. The two-time Wimbledon champion’s partnership with seven-time winner Williams make them
Eight-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer powered his way into the fourth round for the 17th time of the championships on Saturday.
With her 38th birthday fast approaching, the clock is ticking for Serena Williams and on her pursuit of a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title at Roland Garros. The American star won her most recent major at the Australian Open in 2017 while pregnant.
Kings XI Punjab will bank on in-form Australian all-rounder Glenn Maxwell to deliver in their Indian Premier League (IPL) opening match against Delhi Capitals on Sunday.
After holders Bayern Munich kicked-off the new Bundesliga season with a record 8-0 thrashing of Schalke, new-signing Jhon Cordoba scored on his debut in a 4-1 away romp at Werder Bremen on Saturday as the ambitious capital city club threw down an early marker.
Tottenham Hotspur have signed winger Gareth Bale and left back Sergio Reguilon from Spanish champions Real Madrid, the Premier League club announced in a statement on Saturday.