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First title as a mother feels great: Williams

 

Child’s play: Serena Williams with daughter Olympia
Child’s play: Serena Williams with daughter Olympia

By Eleanor Crooks

Serena Williams has won her first title since becoming a mother with victory in the ASB Classic final in Auckland.

The 23-time Grand Slam winner beat Jessica Pegula 6-3 6-4 to claim her 73rd WTA crown and first in three years.

Williams had not previously won a set in any of the finals she had reached since the birth of baby Olympia in September 2017 but after falling 2-0 down in the opener she saved four break points on her way to taking it 6-3.

The second was more straightforward as Williams created eight break chances and had four match points before sealing victory.

"It feels good," Williams said in the on-court presentation. "It's been a long time, I think you could see the relief on my face.

"It definitely feels good, I've definitely been improving as the week went on, and I needed to because it's been a lot of tough matches this week.

"I've played every day and I'm still here."

Williams also announced she would donate her winnings to the Australian bushfire relief fund.

The Australian Open begins on January 20, with Williams bidding to equal Margaret Court's record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles.

Williams won her first WTA title in February 1999, when she beat France's Amelie Mauresmo on carpet at the Open Gaz de France, and this time she celebrated on court with her daughter Olympia, with whom she was eight weeks pregnant when she won her last Grand Slam title in Melbourne.

In Australia, Karolina Pliskova completed a successful defence of her title at the Brisbane International with a 6-4 4-6 7-5 victory over Madison Keys.

Pliskova had to fight hard for her third career title. Keys, finding herself 6-4 3-2 down, won four of the next five games to force a third set but eventually succumbed in a contest which lasted a little over two hours.

Singles World No.1 Ashleigh Barty - who is donating all her prize money to the bushfire appeal - and her doubles partner Kiki Bertens lost their final against Barbora Strycova and Hsieh Su-wei 3-6 7-6 (9-7) 10-8.

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