‘It feels good’: Ser­ena Wil­liams ends 3-year ti­tle drought

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - SPORTS -

AUCK­LAND, NEW ZEALAND >> Ser­ena Wil­liams ended a three-year ti­tle drought when she beat fel­low Amer­i­can Jes­sica Peg­ula 6-3, 6-4 on Sun­day to win the sin­gles fi­nal at the ASB Clas­sic.

Wil­liams hadn’t won a ti­tle since the Aus­tralian Open in Jan­uary 2017, and not since she be­came a mother to her daugh­ter Olympia, who was court­side to see the vic­tory.

“It feels good. It’s been a long time,” Wil­liams said. “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.”

The 23-time ma­jor win­ner do­nated her $43,000 win­ner’s check to the fundrais­ing ap­peal for vic­tims of Aus­tralian wild­fires, join­ing many other ten­nis stars, such as Ash Barty, Nick Ky­grios, No­vak Djokovic and Maria Shara­pova, who have pledged money to the al­ready months-long fire emer­gency there.

U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump tweeted: “Con­grat­u­la­tions to @ser­e­naw­illiams on an­other big win. She is a great player and an even greater per­son. Our mem­bers in Vir­ginia (Ten­nis) will never for­get you!”

Wil­liams was with Trump at the 2015 open­ing of the Trump Ten­nis Cen­ter.

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.

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 de­mand­ing 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 topranked Caro­line Woz­ni­acki in the semi­fi­nals.

Peg­ula has been on a steady climb up the rank­ings since over­com­ing a se­ri­ous knee in­jury two years ago. The daugh­ter of Buf­falo Bills own­ers Terry and Kim Peg­ula, she won her first WTA ti­tle in 2019 and ap­peared to be a star on the rise in all her matches in Auck­land.

Peg­ula broke Wil­liams in the open­ing game and was dom­i­nant for the first half of the first set, mov­ing Wil­liams around to open up the court for her pun­ish­ing pass­ing shots. She also chased down ev­ery­thing, mak­ing re­turns that Wil­liams

thought out of her reach.

But Wil­liams vis­i­bly called on her­self to lift near the mid­dle of the set, break­ing to level at 3-3. She then held serve to love and broke Peg­ula for 5-3, serv­ing out the first set.

Wil­liams broke Peg­ula to love in the third game of the sec­ond set as she steadily be­gan to dom­i­nate. She had three match points on Peg­ula’s serve be­fore clinch­ing the match on serve.

“It feels that I was def­i­nitely im­prov­ing as the week went on,” Wil­liam said.

Wil­liams might have had two ti­tles on the same day but she and long-time friend, first-time dou­bles part­ner 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 re­tire­ment — the Aus­tralian Open will be her last — and she ful­filled a long-held am­bi­tion in Auck­land to team with Wil­liams in dou­bles.

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 in the third and sev­enth games of the first set and claimed the only break of the sec­ond set in the third game.

CHRIS SYMES - THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Ser­ena Wil­liams from the United States with daugh­ter Alexis Olympia Oha­nian Jr. and the ASB tro­phy af­ter win­ning her sin­gles fi­nals match against United States Jes­sica Peg­ula at the ASB Clas­sic in Auck­land, New Zealand, Sun­day, Jan 12, 2020.

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