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Serena ends three-year title drought, gives winnings (sh157m) to bushfire appeal

By AFP

Added 12th January 2020 06:28 PM

It is Williams' first title since 2017 -- and her first as a mother -- since she won the Australian Open while pregnant. Her 73 WTA titles now stretch across four decades, after she won her first in 1999.

Serena ends three-year title drought, gives winnings (sh157m) to bushfire appeal

Serena Williams of the US with her daughter Alexis Olympia after her win against Jessica Pegula of the US during their women's singles final match during the Auckland Classic tennis tournament in Auckland on January 12, 2020. (Photo by MICHAEL BRADLEY / AFP)

It is Williams' first title since 2017 -- and her first as a mother -- since she won the Australian Open while pregnant. Her 73 WTA titles now stretch across four decades, after she won her first in 1999.

 

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 Classic final on Sunday.

Williams raised expectations for this month's Australian Open, where she can equal Margaret Court's record of 24 Grand Slam titles, with her 6-3, 6-4 victory -- her first WTA trophy since she won in Melbourne in 2017.

But the 38-year-old tempered celebrations as she donated her US$43,000 (sh157m) winners' cheque to the Australian bushfire relief 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 said.

 erena illiams of the  poses with her trophy after winning against essica egula of the  during their womens singles final match during the uckland lassic tennis tournament in uckland on anuary 12 2020 hoto by    Serena Williams of the US poses with her trophy after winning against Jessica Pegula of the US during their women's singles final match during the Auckland Classic tennis tournament in Auckland on January 12, 2020. (Photo by MICHAEL BRADLEY / AFP)

 

"I decided at the beginning of the tournament... I'd donate all my prize money for a great cause."

It is Williams' first title since 2017 -- and her first as a mother -- since she won the Australian Open while pregnant. Her 73 WTA titles now stretch across four decades, after she won her first in 1999.

The tournament top seed slipped 1-3 behind in the first set against the unseeded Pegula, a fellow American.

But once she found her range there was never any doubt about the final result, which Williams greeted by raising her arms in triumph while her husband Alexis Ohanian and two-year-old daughter Olympia looked on.

 erena has donated her winners cash to the victims in ustralia Serena has donated her winners' cash to the victims in Australia

 

"It's been a long time, I think you could see the relief on my face," she said, adding she could feel her game sharpening up as she prepares to head 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 every point

Pegula, who has only one title to her credit, had stunned former world number one Caroline Wozniacki -- a close friend of Williams -- in a three-set semi-final, winning every game in the deciding set.

The 25-year-old continued in the same fearless vein at the start of the final, seemingly untroubled by her heavily bandaged left thigh as she chased down everything Williams delivered and even broke Williams' first serve.

Pegula held her own serve and appeared set to break again when Williams, by this stage yelling with every point she won, fought back from 15-40 to hold her second service game on the fifth deuce.

 erena illiams of the  hits a return against essica egula of the  during their womens singles final match during the uckland lassic tennis tournament in uckland on anuary 12 2020 hoto by    Serena Williams of the US hits a return against Jessica Pegula of the US during their women's singles final match during the Auckland Classic tennis tournament in Auckland on January 12, 2020. (Photo by MICHAEL BRADLEY / AFP)

 

Williams eventually achieved a break of her own to level at 3-3, finding the power and precision that had deserted her until then.

With her confidence boosted, Williams held to love in the next game, broke Pegula again and then served to clinch the first set.

Pegula was down 0-40 at the start of the second set before rallying to hold serve but the strain of facing the player who has dominated women's tennis for two decades was showing.

Williams broke on Pegula's next service game and stayed in front until the end to take the title and extinguish a sequence of five defeats in finals since her 2017 win in Melbourne.

 erena illiams of the  reacts after winning against essica egula of the  during their womens singles final match during the uckland lassic tennis tournament in uckland on anuary 12 2020 hoto by    Serena Williams of the US reacts after winning against Jessica Pegula of the US during their women's singles final match during the Auckland Classic tennis tournament in Auckland on January 12, 2020. (Photo by MICHAEL BRADLEY / AFP)

 

Williams, whose last tournament was the US Open in September, was looking for as much game time as possible in Auckland and an hour after winning the singles crown she was back on court partnering Wozniacki in the doubles final.

However, the pair were beaten 6-4, 6-4 by Americans Asia Muhammad and Taylor

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