Auckland (AFP) – Serena Williams ended a three-year title drought and donated her winner’s cheque to victims of the Australian bushfires in an emotional WTA Auckland Basic remaining on Sunday.
Williams raised expectations for this month’s Australian Open, the place she will be able to equal Margaret Court docket’s report of 24 Grand Slam titles, together with her 6-3, 6-Four victory over Jessica Pegula — her first WTA trophy since she gained in Melbourne in 2017.
However the 38-year-old tempered celebrations as she donated her US$43,000 winner’s cheque to the Australian bushfire aid fund and described how the tragedy had affected her deeply.
“I have been taking part in in Australia for over 20 years and it has been actually laborious for me to observe all of the information and all the things that has been occurring in Australia with all the fireplace and… animals and people who have misplaced their houses,” she stated.
“I made a decision in the beginning of the match… I would donate all my prize cash for a fantastic trigger.”
It’s Williams’ first title since 2017 — and her first as a mom — since she gained the Australian Open whereas pregnant. Her 73 WTA titles now stretch throughout 4 a long time, after she gained her first in 1999.
The match prime seed slipped 1-Three behind within the first set in opposition to the unseeded Pegula, a fellow American.
However as soon as she discovered her vary there was by no means any doubt in regards to the remaining outcome, which Williams greeted by elevating her arms in triumph whereas her husband Alexis Ohanian and two-year-old daughter Olympia seemed on.
“It has been a very long time, I believe you could possibly see the aid on my face,” she stated, including she may really feel her sport sharpening up as she prepares to go to Melbourne.
“It undoubtedly feels good, it looks like I used to be undoubtedly enhancing because the week went on and clearly I wanted to.”
– Yelling with each level –
Pegula, who has just one title to her credit score, had surprised former world primary Caroline Wozniacki — a detailed good friend of Williams — in a three-set semi-final, successful each sport within the deciding set.
The 25-year-old continued in the identical fearless vein at first of the ultimate, seemingly untroubled by her closely bandaged left thigh as she chased down all the things Williams delivered and even broke within the opening sport.
Pegula held her personal serve and appeared set to interrupt once more when Williams, by this stage yelling with each level she gained, fought again from 15-40 to carry her second service sport on the fifth deuce.
Williams finally achieved a break of her personal to stage at 3-3, discovering the ability and precision that had abandoned her till then.
Together with her confidence boosted, Williams held to like within the subsequent sport, broke Pegula once more after which served to clinch the primary set.
Pegula was down 0-40 at first of the second set earlier than rallying to carry serve however the pressure of going through the participant who has dominated ladies’s tennis for 20 years was displaying.
Williams broke on Pegula’s subsequent service sport and stayed in entrance till the top to take the title and extinguish a sequence of 5 defeats in finals since her 2017 win in Melbourne.
Williams, whose final match was the US Open in September, was in search of as a lot sport time as potential in Auckland and an hour after successful the singles crown she was again on court docket partnering Wozniacki within the doubles remaining.
Nonetheless, the pair had been overwhelmed 6-4, 6-Four by Individuals Asia Muhammad and Taylor Townsend.