Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Serena Williams ends title drought in New Zealand, but will the momentum lead to a 24th Grand Slam title?


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Source Tennis-For the first time in 1,079 days, Serena Williams has hoisted a championship trophy. The 38-year-old defeated unseeded Jessica Pegula — daughter of Buffalo Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula — 6-3, 6-4, to win the ASB Classic on Sunday in Auckland, New Zealand.

The victory ended a titleless drought that stretched back to the Australian Open in 2017, and included the period she gave birth to her daughter. Here’s what that clearly special moment looked like:

If her expression wasn’t clear enough, she solidified her happiness in her post match comments.

“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.”

Williams even became the latest tennis start to pledge money to relief funds for victims of the ongoing Australian wildfires, donating her winner’s check of $43,000. Others who have donated include Ashleigh Barty, Novak Djokovic, Nick Kyrgios and Maria Sharapova.

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While a drought of any capacity for a former champion is unpleasant, Williams found herself in the unfortunate position of often getting as close as possible to a title before ultimately falling short. Since returning to the sport after giving birth, she’s made five tournament finals and lost every single one. At Wimbledon, her losses came against Angelique Kerber (2018) and Simona Halep (2019). At the U.S. Open, it was Naomi Osaka (2018) and Bianca Andreescu (2019), with the Andreescu also beating Williams in the Canadian Open just a few weeks prior.

Despite the fact that she’s still making these finals in her late thirties, the belief in her chances to win 24th Grand Slam title has begun to wane a fair amount. But this win in Auckland might very well put a stop to the bleeding as the tournament serves as a tune-up of sorts prior to the Australian Open — a tournament she’s won seven times — that begins on January 20.

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