The 23-time Major singles champion Serena Williams has finally won the first WTA title as a mother, beating Jessica Pegula 6-3, 6-4 at the ASB Classic in Auckland for the first crown since the Australian Open 2017. Eager to make a strong start of the season after playing just eight tournaments in 2019, Serena played well in the first week of the new year, lifting the 73rd WTA title and earning US$43,000.
Thrilled with the fact her daughter was there on the court to share her happiness, Serena decided to donate the entire prize money to the Australian bushfire relief fund, overwhelmed by the tragedy that hit many people, homes and animals in Australia.
Serena fended off four out of five break points and took 46% of the return points to create 15 opportunities, converting three to seal the deal in straight sets despite some ups and downs. Pegula had those five break chances in the first couple of return games, breaking Serena in the first game after a backhand error from the top seed and creating more opportunities two games later.
Serena fended off four break points, avoiding falling 3-0 behind and breaking back in game six following a deep return that Pegula failed to control. With the momentum on her side, Serena landed a backhand winner to grab another break in game eight, closing the set in the next game for a 6-3 and a big step towards the finish line.
In set number two, Williams lost four points behind the initial shot, sailing through her service games and securing a break at love at 1-1 after forcing an error from Pegula. The younger American repelled three match points on serve in the ninth game before Serena sealed the deal with a hold at love a few minutes later for a long-awaited title ahead of the Australian Open.
"I've been playing in Australia for over 20 years and it's been tough for me to watch the news and everything that has been happening with the fires," Serena said. "Over a billion animals and people that have lost their homes.
So much has happened, so I decided at the beginning of the tournament in every match I played, I'd donate a dress and also all my prize money for a great cause. I've been waiting two years for this moment, it feels good. It's been a long time; you can see the relief on my face."