January 13th, 2020

Florida’s Serena Williams Wins 1st WTA in 3 Years, Donates to Bushfire Relief

General News Pro Tennis

It was an all-American final on Sunday at the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand, where 23-time Grand Slam winner Serena Williams ended a long title drought, defeating Jessica Pegula 6-3, 6-4.

The Auckland crown was Williams’ first title in three years since returning to the WTA tour after the birth of her first child.

“It was a good match,” Serena said after capturing her 73rd career title. “I don’t think I hit a tremendous amount of aces — she was getting all my serves back. My groundstrokes were probably the strongest thing in that match. It’s good for me to win matches where I’m not getting too many free points, so I have to rely on my groundstrokes.”

In her winner’s speech, she announced she will be donating all of her prize money from the tournament to the Australian bushfire relief fund and auctioning off each dress she wore during her nine matches in Auckland.

Since her last title at the 2017 Australian Open, Williams had lost finals at Wimbledon and the US Open in 2018, and at Wimbledon, the US Open and the Canadian Open in 2019. The title effort in Auckland moves her up one spot to No. 9 on the WTA rankings.

“I definitely didn’t have nerves,” said Serena, who was a point from going down 0-3 in the opening set. “Did I get broken in the first game? I just didn’t come out the way I should have, and she was playing well…You have to be your biggest cheerleader, especially if you’re feeling you’re not doing everything right — or even if you are doing everything right, but things aren’t working out for you.”

Following the singles, Williams and partner Caroline Wozniacki lost in the doubles final to unseeded Americans Asia Muhammad and Taylor Townsend 6-4, 6-4. It was the first tour-level championship as a team for Muhammad-Townsend after years of collecting titles together on the USTA Pro Circuit and ITF World Tour.

Muhammad extended her unbeaten record in WTA doubles finals to 5-0, while Williams suffered only the second defeat in a doubles final in her career. Townsend was 0-2 career in WTA finals entering the event.

“I think we had a pretty solid game plan going into the match, and we managed our nerves and knowing who was on the other side of the net,” said Townsend, the former world No. 1 junior. “[We were] not really getting too caught up in that, keeping our heads down and just playing and doing what we had been doing the entire tournament.”

Muhammad-Townsend first paired on the double court six years ago and have won nine ITF/USTA Pro Circuit titles together.

“We’re really good friends off the court and I think that just helps while being on court,” Muhammad said. “If we’re not feeling something, we can just talk to each other pretty openly, or if someone is not doing something, we can get on them a little bit — in a friendly way. I think it just helps a lot with our team dynamic.”