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 Traditional last on Sunday.
Williams raised expectations for this month’s Australian Open, the place she will equal Margaret Courtroom’s report of 24 Grand Slam titles, together with her 6-3, 6-Four victory — 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 winners cheque to the Australian bushfire aid fund and described how the tragedy had affected her deeply.
“I’ve been playing in Australia for over 20 years and it’s been really hard for me to watch all the news and everything that has been happening in Australia with all the fire and… animals and people that have lost their homes,” she stated.
“I decided at the beginning of the tournament… I’d donate all my prize money for a great cause.”
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 event high 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 concerning the last consequence, which Williams greeted by elevating her arms in triumph whereas her husband Alexis Ohanian and two-year-old daughter Olympia seemed on.
“It’s been a long time, I think you could see the relief on my face,” she stated, including she may really feel her recreation sharpening up as she prepares to go to Melbourne.
“It definitely feels good, it feels like i was definitely improving as the week went on and obviously I needed to.”
Yelling with each level
Pegula, who has just one title to her credit score, had surprised former world primary Caroline Wozniacki — a detailed pal of Williams — in a three-set semi-final, profitable each recreation within the deciding set.
The 25-year-old continued in the identical fearless vein in the beginning of the ultimate, seemingly untroubled by her closely bandaged left thigh as she chased down every little thing Williams delivered and even broke Williams’ first serve.
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 serve on the fifth deuce.
Williams finally achieved a break of her personal to degree at 3-3, discovering the facility and precision that had abandoned her till then.
Together with her confidence boosted, Williams held to like within the subsequent recreation, broke Pegula once more after which served to clinch the primary set.
Pegula was down 0-40 in the beginning 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 exhibiting.
Williams broke on Pegula’s subsequent service recreation and stayed in entrance till the top of the set to take the title and finish a sequence of 5 defeats in finals since her 2017 win in Melbourne.