Serena Williams snapped a five-match losing streak in WTA Tour finals Sunday with a victory over Jessica Pegula in the 2020 ASB Classic championship match to secure her first title since the 2017 Australian Open.
Williams, who captured her 73rd career title and first since giving birth to her daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr. in September 2017, held off a challenge from Pegula, the daughter of Buffalo Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula, with a 6-3, 6-4 triumph.
"It feels good. It's been a long time," Williams told reporters. "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."
The 38-year-old Michigan native returned to the court for an exhibition match in December 2017, less than four months after her daughter's birth, and resumed full-time Tour play the following spring.
Despite the quick comeback, she wrote a first-person piece for CNN in February 2018, stating she "almost died after giving birth to my daughter, Olympia." She explained a pulmonary embolism led to a series of other issues that became a life-threatening situation:
"This sparked a slew of health complications that I am lucky to have survived. First my C-section wound popped open due to the intense coughing I endured as a result of the embolism. I returned to surgery, where the doctors found a large hematoma, a swelling of clotted blood, in my abdomen. And then I returned to the operating room for a procedure that prevents clots from traveling to my lungs. When I finally made it home to my family, I had to spend the first six weeks of motherhood in bed."
She's been her typically dominant self for the most part since her comeback, including a 25-6 record in 2019, and figures to arrive to each of this year's majors as the favorite.
Her aura of invincibility on the sport's biggest stages faded in recent years, however, as four of her five straight losses in finals came in Grand Slam events.
Getting back in the title column could help her get back on track in that regard as she prepares for the 2020 Australian Open, which kicks off Jan. 20.
"It definitely feels good," Williams said Sunday. "It feels that I was definitely improving as the week went on."
Williams' 23 Grand Slam singles titles rank second all-time to Margaret Court (24).
Seven of those have come in the Australian Open, tying Wimbledon for her most in any major.