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Serena Williams ends tennis title drought in New Zealand

Serena Williams moved up to No. 9 in the Women's Tennis Association world rankings Monday, following her title at the 2020 ASB Classic in Aukland, New Zealand. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
Serena Williams moved up to No. 9 in the Women's Tennis Association world rankings Monday, following her title at the 2020 ASB Classic in Aukland, New Zealand. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 13 (UPI) -- Serena Williams won her first tennis title since the 2017 Australian Open, beating American Jessica Pegula in straight sets in the ASB Classic final Sunday in Aukland, New Zealand.

Williams won the match 6-3, 6-4 and donated her $43,000 prize to a fundraiser for victims of the Australian wildfires. The win was also Williams' first since she became a mother to daughter Olympia, who sat courtside during the victory.

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"It's pretty satisfying just to get a win in the final," Williams said. "That was really important for me -- and I just want to build on it. It's just a step towards the next goal."

Williams smashed two aces and dropped one serve against Pegula. The 23-time Grand Slam champion hadn't won a single set in any of her previous finals since the 2017 Australian Open, before dominating for her 73rd career WTA title.

Pegula got off to a 2-0 lead before Williams bounced back to tie the score at 3-3 in the first set. She stepped up again to close out the set with three consecutive games, and dominated her fellow American foe down the stretch.

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"I definitely didn't have nerves," Williams said.

"I just didn't come out the way I should have, and she was playing well."

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Williams, 38, moved up from No. 10 to No. 9 in the WTA world rankings with the win. She ranked as high as No. 8 in 2019. Her last No. 1 ranking was May 8, 2017. American Amanda Anisimova also moved up the rankings, jumping to No. 22 from No. 25 and Ekaterina Alexandrova moved up eight spots to No. 26.

Other rankings movers included Elena Rybakina (No. 30), Jennifer Brady (No. 49) and Pegula (No. 64).

"I feel so fortunate and blessed to just be out here and be healthy and to play," Williams said. "I've been out here for so long and been through so much. It's good to be able to come and do what I do. I feel so happy to do something that I absolutely love."

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The 2020 Australian Open, the year's first grand slam tournament, will run from Jan. 20 to Feb. 2 in Melbourne.

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