Serena Williams will be breathing a sigh of relief now after capturing her first title in three years – her first since the 2017 Australian Open.
It is also, significantly, the 38-year-old’s first title as a mother.
Serena had lost five finals in a row; to Angelique Kerber at Wimbledon 2018, Naomi Osaka at the 2018 US Open, Simona Halep at Wimbledon 2019, and Bianca Andreescu at both the 2019 Rogers Cup and the 2019 US Open.
Not this time, though. What jinx?
With a 6-3, 6-4 win over compatriot Jessica Pegula, the 23-time Grand Slam champion wins her 73rd career title at the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand and it could mark a fresh start for her.
This title could not have come at a more appropriate time. It was Serena’s first tournament of the 2020 season and with the first Grand Slam tournament of the year, the Australian Open just eight days away, this is the very best motivation she could have possibly gotten. Reaching the doubles final with Caroline Wozniacki also adds a bit of gloss to it.
In previous finals, Serena was obviously lacking in confidence, but it was different this time. She started slowly, with Pegula taking a 2-0 lead early in the first set before Serena found her rhythm and turned the match around.
This time, she did not put herself under so much pressure, and it had nothing to do with Pegula’s ranking.
Serena has long been tipped to match or break Margaret Court’s record of most Grand Slam Singles titles (24) but losing four consecutive Grand Slam finals has left her stuck on 23.
She goes into the Australian Open seeded eighth and she will fight for that elusive 24th again. If she fails to win it, she will go again at the French Open, Wimbledon and US Open, knowing she still has not only the physical strength but also the mental fortitude to reach that desired feat.
Outside the Grand Slams, Serena can also add to her tally of 73 career titles.
It will definitely not come easy.
The WTA Tour has become quite competitive in the last few years, and the current crop of young players will stand in her way, as they have been doing since she returned to court after childbirth, but she should come good.
To be honest, Serena Williams has nothing more to prove but one or two more Grand Slam titles would be the icing on the cake for her illustrious career. The fact that she can still compete at such a level at 38 is, in itself, beyond commendable and at this rate, she remains competitive until she decides it is time to put down the racket.
For now, Serena might just have entered a new phase of her career and the 2020 season could be very significant.