Serena Williams won her first WTA tournament title in nearly three years — and since having daughter Olympia — capturing an Australian Open tune-up event in Auckland, New Zealand.
Williams, a 38-year-old, 23-time Grand Slam singles champion, swept countrywoman Jessica Pegula 6-3, 6-4 in the ASB Classic final on Sunday. Williams had lost her previous five finals, all since Olympia’s birth on Sept. 1, 2017, after never losing more than two consecutive finals in her career.
“It feels good. It’s been a long time,” Williams said as her daughter was courtside Sunday. “I think you can see the relief on my face.”
Williams, with her 73rd career title, became the third-oldest woman to win a WTA tournament behind Billie Jean King (39) and Kimiko Date-Krumm (38). And the first to win singles titles in four different decades.
Williams donated her $43,000 winner’s check and a dress for every match she played 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.
“I’ve been playing in Australia for over 20 years, and it’s been really hard for me to watch all the news and everything that has been happening in Australia with all the fires and over a billion animals and people have lost their homes,” Williams said.
She goes into the Australian Open that starts Jan. 20 having reached the final in four of her seven Grand Slam starts post-pregnancy. She lost all four of those finals at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. She remains one Grand Slam singles title shy of Margaret Court‘s record.
Williams owns seven Australian Open titles, including her last title of any kind in January 2017. She beat sister Venus Williams in the final while eight weeks pregnant but before she announced that she was having a baby.
Williams began this year ranked No. 10 in the world and leading U.S. Olympic qualifying standings. The top four U.S. women in the WTA singles rankings after the French Open are in line to qualify for the Tokyo Games.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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