Serena Williams ends title drought with victory in Auckland Classic final

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Serena Williams won her first title since the 2017 Australian Open with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Jessica Pegula at the Auckland Classic on Sunday but was unable to complete a perfect week in New Zealand when she lost the doubles final.

The 38-year-old Williams, who said she would donate all her prize money to Australian bushfire relief funds, and her good friend Caroline Wozniacki were beaten by the American duo Asia Muhammad and Taylor Townsend 6-4, 6-4.

Williams’s singles victory, however, gave the American her 73rd WTA title and broke a near three-year drought, despite having appeared in five finals since she clinched her 23rd grand slam crown with a win at the Australian Open in 2017.

She is chasing Australian Margaret Court’s record 24 grand slam singles titles, but has lost two Wimbledon and two US Open finals since her 6-4, 6-4 victory over her elder sister Venus in Melbourne three years ago.

“It feels good, it has been a long time,” Williams said. “I played an incredible opponent in Jessica and honestly it was a great match.”

Williams had struggled for consistency earlier in the week but sent an ominous message to the Australian Open field when she demolished the promising American teenager Amanda Anisimova 6-1, 6-1 in their semi-final and then beat an impressive Pegula on Sunday.

“I was definitely improving as the week went on and I needed to because I had some tough matches,” Williams said. “I feel fortunate and blessed to be out here and to be healthy and to play. I have been playing for so long and been through so much and I’m happy to be doing something I love.”

The doubles result meant that Wozniacki was unable to complete her own fairytale farewell to a tournament that she has played in every year since 2015. The 29-year-old Dane, who was beaten by Pegula in the singles semi-finals, is retiring after the Australian Open, which runs from 20 January to 2 February.

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