Serena ends title drought with Auckland win, donates winnings to Australian bushfire victims

It is Serena Williams’ first title since 2017 — and her first as a mother — since she won the Australian Open while pregnant. (AFP)
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Updated 12 January 2020

Serena ends title drought with Auckland win, donates winnings to Australian bushfire victims

  • ‘I decided at the beginning of the tournament... I’d donate all my prize money for a great cause’
  • It is Williams’ first title since 2017 since she won the Australian Open while pregnant

AUCKLAND: Serena Williams ended a three-year title drought and donated her winner’s cheque to victims of the Australian bushfires in an emotional WTA Auckland Classic final on Sunday.
Williams raised expectations for this month’s Australian Open, where she can equal Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam titles, with her 6-3, 6-4 victory — her first WTA trophy since she won in Melbourne in 2017.
But the 38-year-old tempered celebrations as she donated her $43,000 winners’ cheque to the Australian bushfire relief fund and described how the tragedy had affected her deeply.
“I’ve been playing in Australia for over 20 years and it’s been really hard for me to watch all the news and everything that has been happening in Australia with all the fire and... animals and people that have lost their homes,” she said.
“I decided at the beginning of the tournament... I’d donate all my prize money for a great cause.”
It is Williams’ first title since 2017 — and her first as a mother — since she won the Australian Open while pregnant. Her 73 WTA titles now stretch across four decades, after she won her first in 1999.
The tournament top seed slipped 1-3 behind in the first set against the unseeded Pegula, a fellow American.
But once she found her range there was never any doubt about the final result, which Williams greeted by raising her arms in triumph while her husband Alexis Ohanian and two-year-old daughter Olympia looked on.
“It’s been a long time, I think you could see the relief on my face,” she said, adding she could feel her game sharpening up as she prepares to head to Melbourne.
“It definitely feels good, it feels like i was definitely improving as the week went on and obviously, I needed to.”
Pegula, who has only one title to her credit, had stunned former world number one Caroline Wozniacki — a close friend of Williams — in a three-set semifinal, winning every game in the deciding set.
The 25-year-old continued in the same fearless vein at the start of the final, seemingly untroubled by her heavily bandaged left thigh as she chased down everything Williams delivered and even broke Williams’ first serve.
Pegula held her own serve and appeared set to break again when Williams, by this stage yelling with every point she won, fought back from 15-40 to hold her second serve on the fifth deuce.
Williams eventually achieved a break of her own to level at 3-3, finding the power and precision that had deserted her until then.
With her confidence boosted, Williams held to love in the next game, broke Pegula again and then served to clinch the first set.
Pegula was down 0-40 at the start of the second set before rallying to hold serve but the strain of facing the player who has dominated women’s tennis for two decades was showing.
Williams broke on Pegula’s next service game and stayed in front until the end of the set to take the title and end a sequence of five defeats in finals since her 2017 win in Melbourne.


England cricket players donate, take pay cuts amid COVID-19 crisis

Updated 05 April 2020

England cricket players donate, take pay cuts amid COVID-19 crisis

  • The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has said the season will not start before May 28
  • ECB’s centrally contracted women players to take a salary reduction for the months of April, May and June

LONDON: England’s centrally contracted male cricketers will donate £500,000 ($613,000) to the Board and charities while their women’s team counterparts have volunteered a three-month pay cut amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the players’ association (PCA) said.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has said the season will not start before May 28 and speculation has been mounting over how their leading players would respond to the situation.

“Following a meeting today of all of the England men’s centrally contracted cricketers, the players have agreed to make an initial donation of £0.5 million to the ECB and to selected good causes ...” the Professional Cricketers’ Association said in a statement.

“This contribution is the equivalent of all of the England centrally contracted players taking a 20 percent reduction in their monthly retainers for the next three months.

“The players will continue to discuss with the ECB the challenging situation faced by the game and society as a whole and will consider how best to support the ECB and both the cricketing and wider community going forward.”

The ECB’s centrally contracted women players have volunteered to take a salary reduction for the months of April, May and June in line with their coaches and support staff.

England women’s captain Heather Knight said: “All the players felt like it was the right response in the current climate to take a pay cut in line with what our support staff are taking.

“We know how the current situation is affecting the game and we want to help as much as we can.

“We will be discussing with the ECB further ways we can help the game in the coming weeks,” added Knight, who has signed up with the National Health Service (NHS) as a volunteer.

The ECB has announced a 61 million pounds aid package to help the local game withstand the financial impact of the pandemic.

Wicketkeeper-batsman Jos Buttler is currently auctioning the shirt he wore in England’s 2019 World Cup final victory to raise funds for efforts to fight the coronavirus.