Serena Williams wins Auckland Classic to end three-year title drought
Williams donates winner's cheque to fundraising appeal for victims of Australian bushfires
Last Updated: 12/01/20 11:17am
Serena Williams has broken a three-year title drought and won the singles final at the ASB Classic in Auckland.
Williams had not won a singles title since the Australian Open in January 2017 but prevailed 6-3 6-4 over Jessica Pegula.
The victory secured her 73rd WTA title and her first since she becoming a mother to her daughter Olympia, who was court-side to see her victory.
The 23-time Grand Slam winner then donated her $43,000 winner's cheque to the fundraising appeal for victims of the Australian bushfires.
Serena Williams returns to Title Town.— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) January 12, 2020
Serena wins her 1st title since 2017, defeating Jessica Pegula 63 64 to win @asbclassic.
Serena won her 1st WTA title in February 1999.
She’s won her 73rd WTA title in January 2020.
Excellence across 4 decades. #ASBClassic pic.twitter.com/0UgWu1pfOI
"It feels good. It's been a long time," Williams said post-match.
"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."
Finishing with the winner's trophy in her arms capped a productive week for Williams. She turned out on all seven days of the tournament and successfully combined the demands of both the singles and doubles.
Within the singles draw, Williams was frequently behind in her matches (including during the final) and showed her determination to fight her way back.
Pegula has been on a steady climb up the rankings since overcoming a serious knee injury two years ago. She broke Williams in the opening game and was dominant for the first half of the first set.
The 25-year-old moved her opponent around to open up the court for her own and then hit punishing passing shots. Pegula also chased down everything and made returns that Williams thought were out of her reach.
However, Williams visibly called herself to lift near the middle of the set and broke to level at 3-3. She then held serve to love, broke Pegula for 5-3 and served out the first set in 51 minutes.
Williams steadily began to dominate and broke Pegula to love in the third game of the second set. She had three match points on Pegula's serve before clinching the match on her own in just over 90 minutes.
Williams might have had two titles on the same day but she and long-time friend Caroline Wozniacki were beaten 6-4 6-4 by Americans Taylor Townsend and Asia Muhammad in the doubles final.
Wozniacki was playing her second-to-last tournament before she retires after the Australian Open and fulfilled a long-held ambition to team up with Williams in Auckland.
The pair progressed easily to the final but were overwhelmed on Sunday by Townsend and Muhammad who were a more practiced and efficient combination.
The young Americans broke the two former singles No 1s in the third and seventh games of the first set and claimed the only break of the second set in the third game.
In Australia, Karolina Pliskova prevailed in a three-set tug-of-war with Madison Keys to become the first three-time winner at the Brisbane International.
A day after clinching a near three-hour semi-final duel with Naomi Osaka, the world No 2 overcame a mid-match blip to triumph 6-4 4-6 7-5 at the Pat Rafter Arena.
Pliskova rode her big first serve to save two break points in the first set and converted on her first opportunity to surge ahead.
A set and break down, Keys broke back to level it 3-3 and went on to win the set and force a decider, in which the first six games stayed on serve before Pliskova broke the American in the seventh.
Keys refused to throw in the towel, however, and foiled the Czech's first attempt to serve out the match at 5-4.
Pliskova could not be denied though. The 2017 and 2019 winner broke again for 6-5 and then served it out to clinch victory in her first meeting with the eighth-seeded American in a little over two hours.