Serena Williams is beaming as she heads for Melbourne, describing it as a “super awesome” moment to claim a first title as a mother.
The American great was resplendent on Auckland’s centre court on Sunday after winning the ASB Classic, carrying the trophy in one arm and her daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr, in the other.
Her last title was the 2017 Australian Open, won while eight weeks pregnant, making Williams’ 6-3 6-4 win over Jessica Pegula her first success since returning to the tour in March 2018.
Already considered the greatest female tennis player of all time, Williams has reached but faltered in four grand slam finals since then.
One more win will see Williams match Margaret Court’s record of 24 major singles titles.
After claiming everything the sport has to offer, Williams said it was a delight to tick off another personal milestone; the champion mother is now a mother champion.
“I haven’t been able to say it. So it’s super awesome for me. I’m really proud of that,” she said.
Asked whether she felt patronised by near-constant mentions of her motherhood, Williams said her emotion instead was pride.
“They don’t really care that much with men, (when they win) their first title as a daddy,” she said.
“But it’s different with men too, they didn’t have to give birth which is a totally different experience.”
“I’m proud to hear it. To say it.”
Three women have achieved what Williams will set out to do at the Australian Open this month by claiming a major title with a child in tow; Court, fellow Australian great Evonne Goolagong-Cawley, and Belgian Kim Clijsters.
Williams arrives at Melbourne Park full of confidence after a busy week in New Zealand.
She defeated five top-100 players for the loss of just one set, also enjoying a run to the doubles final with best friend and retiring star Caroline Wozniacki.
Her best performance was a 43-minute 6-1 6-1 semi-final rout of world No.25 and French Open semi-finalist Amanda Anisimova.
“I’m feeling good. I’m feeling fit,” she said.
“I’ve had some good matches. Long matches, short matches, rallies, power players, the elements. This is exactly what I needed going into Melbourne.”
Perhaps most importantly, even though the size and occasion of the Auckland final can’t compare to a grand slam decider, Williams has also rid herself of an unwanted five-final losing streak.
“I would be lying if I said it didn’t (cross my mind),” she said.
“That’s why I was really happy after the match to get the win and fight through what I had to fight through.
“It’s pretty satisfying to get a win in the final … I want to build on it. It’s just a step towards the next goal.”