History was written in Auckland as 23-time Major champion Serena Williams ended her title drought to become the first player to lift a title across four decades. The American prevailed 6-3, 6-4 over compatriot Jessica Pegula in a high-quality final at the ASB Classic, taking home her first title in three years ever since returning from maternity leave.
Williams went 0-5 in finals ever since giving birth to daughter Olympia, and her confidence came under scrutiny as she could not perform in finals. Today, she proved the doubters wrong as she put in a solid performance to defeat an inspired Pegula, who had a great week here at the Kiwiland.
Pegula shook off an eight-match losing streak from the end of 2019 in Auckland and defeated former world number one Caroline Wozniacki en route her third career WTA final. Projected to rise 18 spots in the rankings, the American is one to keep a lookout for this year.
Williams overcomes slow start to take the first set
It was a familiar sight when Williams experienced a slow start in the final, being broken in her opening service game as she sprayed uncharacteristic unforced errors from the baseline. Pegula started the match with incredible intensity and pounced on her chances, bursting out to a commanding early lead.
Williams looked in deep trouble when she conceded four break points in a marathon third game, but recovered well to survive the challenge and get onto the scoreboard. Pegula withstood the storm and clung onto her advantage with a routine service hold but from there, it was one-way traffic.
Williams’ deadly groundstrokes have rushed out of the gates, completely dominating the remainder of the set as she clinched five consecutive games with some pinpoint, consistent hitting which left her opponent helpless and lagging behind by a step. This was the Williams that her fans were so familiar with, especially after her 6-1, 6-1 demolition of rising star Amanda Anisimova in the semifinals.
Clinical serving proves crucial as Williams triumphs
To her credit, Pegula was not playing bad at all — she was just being outperformed by an opponent who was firing on all cylinders. She was able to dig a confidence-boosting hold from 0-40 down in the opening game of the second set, renewing some hope and possibly halting Williams’ momentum.
However, Williams would go on to concede just three points on her invincible serve through the rest of the match as she dominated proceedings. Pegula was broken to love after an error-strewn service game, although she attempted to amend for her mistakes with some spirited display to minimize the deficit.
Saving three championship points with the help of several Williams’ errors, Pegula forced the top seed to serve the match out but Williams was unfazed by the pressure as she comfortably served out the match to love, taking home her first title since the 2017 Australian Open.
Williams will now head to Melbourne as a huge favourite for her 24th Grand Slam title, looking to rewrite history once again. Shortly after the contest, she went back onto Centre Court to compete in the doubles final alongside good friend Caroline Wozniacki. However, she was unable to make it two out of two as they were defeated in straight sets by compatriots Asia Muhammad and Taylor Townsend.