American tennis legend Serena Williams claimed her first title since returning from maternity break after defeating Jessica Pegula in the ASB Classic final on Sunday. Serena defeated Pegula in straight sets 6-3, 6-4 to win her first title since winning the Australian Open in 2017.
Rewarded for her thrilling comeback, Serena has gained one place to move to the ninth spot in the latest Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) rankings released on Monday. The 38-year-old pipped Dutch Kiki Bertens a week ahead of the start of the opening Grand Slam of the season.
Williams in the process became the first player in the Open era to win titles across four decades.
Australia’s Ashleigh Barty remains top of the rankings but second-placed Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic has narrowed the gap heading into the Australian Open. Barty is looking to become the first Australian to win the Grand Slam since Christine O’Neil in 1976.
Japan’s Naomi Osaka moves up one place to third while Romania’s Simona Halep came down to fourth. Swiss Belinda Bencic moved up to seventh at the expense of Czech Petra Kvitova.
Earlier, the 23-time major winner Serena donated her $43,000 winner’s check to the fundraising appeal for victims of Australian wildfires, joining many other tennis stars, such as Ash Barty, Nick Kygrios, Novak Djokovic and Maria Sharapova, who have pledged money to the already months-long fire emergency there.
WTA top 10 as of January 13:
1. (1) Ashleigh Barty, Australia, 7547 points
2. (2) Karolina Pliskova, Czech Republic, 5940
3. (4) Naomi Osaka, Japan, 5496
4. (3) Simona Halep, Romania, 5461
5. (5) Elina Svitolina, Ukraine, 5075
6. (6) Bianca Andreescu, Canada, 4935
7. (8) Belinda Bencic, Switzerland, 4605
8. (7) Petra Kvitova, Czech Republic, 4436
9. (10) Serena Williams, United States, 4215
10. (9) Kiki Bertens, Netherlands, 4165.