tops Pegula in all-American final
Arthur Kapetanakis | January 12, 2020
Serena Williams won her first title as a mother, and her 73rd WTA singles crown overall, with a 6-3, 6-4 win over compatriot Jessica Pegula in the 2020 ASB Classic. Now a WTA champion in four decades, dating back to her debut title in 1999, Williams sealed victory in Auckland, New Zealand, with a love service hold.
A down-the-line backhand winner ended what Williams called an "intense" affair on her fourth match point.
The 38-year-old No. 1 seed dropped just one set in five matches on the week, to Christina McHale in the Round of 16, but was most impressive in the later rounds. She was clinical in a semifinal showdown with No. 3 seed Amanda Anisimova, facing (and saving) just one break point and converting five break opportunities of her own in a 6-1, 6-1 victory.
Pegula provided a sterner test in the final, breaking serve once in five chances, but Williams piled on the pressure on the return by creating 15 break points in the one-hour, 35-minute contest. ADVERTISEMENT The 23-time Grand Slam champion converted on three of those break points to seal her first trophy since she won the 2017 Australian Open while pregnant with daughter Olympia.
During the trophy ceremony, Williams announced that she would be donating her winner's prize money to support bushfire relief efforts in Australia.
After battling past Pegula, Williams reflected on an all-around performance that included just two aces in 10 service games.
"She was getting all my serves back," Williams said, crediting her opponent. "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."
The title will lift her to No. 9 in the WTA Rankings entering the Australian Open. Significantly, with Bianca Andreescu out of the year's first major, that will earn Williams the No. 8 seed, meaning she will avoid facing any of the WTA's Top 8 until at least the quarterfinals in Melbourne.
Shortly after the singles finale, Williams took the court for the doubles championship with a chance to sweep the Auckland titles alongside Caroline Wozniacki. But the high-profile duo was turned back by the all-American tandem of Taylor Townsend and Asia Muhammad, 6-4, 6-4, with an unreturned lefty serve from Townsend wrapping up the win. The victory earned Townsend her first career WTA trophy, with Muhammad extending her perfect record in WTA doubles finals to 5-0.
Elsewhere in Australia, Madison Keys fell just short of a title at the Brisbane International, dropping a 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 decision to Karolina Pliskova.
As the Australian Open draws ever closer, with qualifying beginning on Jan. 14, there are a pair of tournaments on both the WTA and ATP calendars in the week ahead. Both tours converge for the Adelaide International, while the WTA Tour also travels to Hobart and the ATP takes its turn in Auckland.