Tennis

Serena Williams ends title drought, donates winnings to fire victims

Serena Williams broke a three-year title drought when she beat fellow American Jessica Pegula 6-3, 6-4 yesterday to win the singles final at the ASB Classic.

Williams had not won a title since the Australian Open singles in January 2017, and not since she became a mother to her daughter Olympia, who was court-side to see the victory.

The 23-time Major winner donated her US$43,000 (S$58,000) winner's cheque to the fundraising appeal for victims of Australian wildfires, joining many other tennis stars, such as Ashleigh Barty, Nick Kygrios, Novak Djokovic and Maria Sharapova, who have pledged money to the months-long fire emergency.

Williams was under pressure at first against the 25-year-old Pegula, playing in her third WTA final, but asserted herself more as the match went on to claim her 73rd win in 98 finals and to add her name to a trophy won by her sister, Venus, in 2015.

"It feels good. It's been a long time," Williams said.

"You can see the relief, 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."

The last three years have been challenging for Williams as she juggled competing demands of tennis and motherhood.

But she seemed to turn a corner during a tough week in which she played both doubles and singles, turning out on all seven days of the tournament.

She was frequently behind in her matches, but showed typical determination to fight her way to the final and overcome Pegula, who ousted former World No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki in the semi-finals.

"It definitely feels good," Williams said.

"It feels that I was definitely improving as the week went on." - AP

Tennis