Serena wins ASB Classic for first title in three years

andrew hendrie:

Serena Williams has snapped her three-year title drought and claimed her first singles trophy as a mother, defeating Jessica Pegula for the ASB Classic silverware in Auckland on Sunday.

The 23-time major champion recovered from a slow start to overpower Pegula, registering a 6-3 6-4 victory to secure her 73rd career title.

Serena’s triumph in Auckland means she’s now won titles across four decades on tour, having claimed her first WTA crown in 1999.

During her winner’s speech, Serena also said she would be donating all of her prize money to the Australian bushfire relief fund, along with auctioning off all of the dresses she’s worn across every singles and doubles match she played in Auckland.

Heading into the final, Serena had failed to win a set in any of her post-maternity finals, falling in straight sets at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open two times in 2018 and 2019, while she also retired in the opening set of the 2019 Rogers Cup.

It appeared as if Serena might be in for another long day at the office as she went down 2-0 early. Pegula blasted a series of punishing backhands and had four break points for a double break, but Serena managed to hold on, and from there she was on top, swiftly levelling up for 3-3 and ultimately winning five of the last six games to win the opener 6-3.

Serena kept her foot on the pedal as she broke Pegula immediately to open the second, and that break would end up being all the American needed as she closed out the match to capture her first title since the 2017 Australian Open.

The 38-year-old will now turn her attention to the Australian Open, where once again she’ll be aiming to equal Margaret Court’s all-time Grand Slam title singles record of 24.

It’s only the third time in Serena’s career where she’ll head to the Australian Open with a title under her belt to launch the season after doing so in Brisbane in 2013/14.

Serena dropped just one set on her way to the Auckland silverware (against Christina McHale in the second round), with her best performance coming in the semi-finals when she blitzed rising star Amanda Anisimova in just 43 minutes.