Serena Williams won her first singles title since giving birth nearly three years ago, defeating unseeded American Jessica Pegula, 6-3, 6-4, to win the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand, on Sunday. Though the implications for next week’s Australian Open are unclear, it was abundantly clear how much this long-awaited victory meant to the 38-year-old Williams. After finishing off the match with a backhand winner down the line, she thrust both arms into the air, looked skyward, and roared for several seconds. “Finally,” she said to herself after shaking Pegula’s hand. It had been almost three years since Williams’s last title, which came at the 2017 Australian Open, when she was, unbeknown to the wider world, nearly two months pregnant with her daughter, Olympia. Since returning to the tour in early 2018, six months after giving birth, Williams reached five other finals, failing to win a set in any of them.
Serbia takes ATP Cup
Novak Djokovic beat Rafael Nadal and then went back on court within an hour and won the deciding doubles encounter to secure Serbia’s victory over Spain in the inaugural ATP Cup final. Second-ranked Djokivic had a 6-2, 7-6 (7-4) win over top-ranked Nadal on Sunday night to level the final after Roberto Bautista Agut had given Spain a 1-0 lead by beating Dusan Lajovic, 7-5, 6-1, in the first singles match.
Steele falters at Sony
Two shots behind with two holes to play, Cameron Smith made an 8-foot birdie putt on the final hole to force a playoff against a faltering Brendan Steele, then won the rain-soaked Sony Open with a two-putt par from 10 feet on the first extra hole in Honolulu. It was the first PGA Tour title for the Australian. Steele had a three-shot lead when he holed a bunker shot for birdie on the 11th hole and he never trailed the entire day until it fell apart at the end. He missed a 6-foot par putt on the 17th, and then hit a wild hook from the fairway on the par-5 18th and never had a reasonable look at birdie. On the 10th hole for the playoff, Steele was in ideal position in the fairway, 88 yards from the hole, when he hit wedge over the green. He chipped off the mud and wet grass to 15 feet and missed the par putt. Smith, who had driven into right rough, chased his shot to 10 feet . . . Branden Grace stormed home with a final-round 62 to win the European Tour’s South African Open by three shots from Louis Oosthuizen. The two South Africans fought it out at Randpark Golf Club in Johannesburg. Oosthuizen, the overnight leader, produced a hole-in-one on No. 8 to send the crowd wild. Grace responded with four straight birdies, starting on No. 11, to go 9 under, finishing 21 under. Grace picked up eight birdies and an eagle, and just one bogey, and ended up pulling away from Oosthuizen, who closed with a 3-under 68 to finish 18 under.
UConn falls in 2 OTs
Wichita State’s men’s basketball team blew a 9-point point lead in just over a minute at the end of regulation, but the No. 23 Shockers got their ninth straight win, holding off host UConn, 89-86, in double overtime. Jaime Echenique led four Wichita State players in double figures with 19 points before fouling out. Erik Stevenson and Dexter Dennis each scored 16 for the Shockers (15-1, 3-0 AAC). Christian Vital scored 25 points for UConn (10-6, 1-3), and James Bouknight had 16. Earlier in the day, UConn announced that junior forward Tyler Polley, who started every game this season, tore the ACL and medial meniscus in his left knee in practice Friday and will miss the remainder of the season . . . Behind Shannon Todd’s season-high, 20-point performance and Alexis Hill’s near triple-double effort, the Northeastern women’s basketball team collected a high-energy road win at Delaware, earning the 72-62 victory. Todd drained four of the Huskies’ seven triples, becoming the program’s sixth all-time player to eclipse 150 career 3-point field goals (153) . . . The BU women got back on track with a decisive 72-66 road victory over Army. Katie Nelson led the Terriers with 19 points, and Nia Irving recorded her 1,000th career point in the third quarter . . . In women’s hockey, Northeastern stopped Boston College, 3-0, on goals from Matti Hartman, Katy Knoll, and Skylar Fontaine.
Devils fire GM Shero
The New Jersey Devils fired Ray Shero as general manager after a four-plus year tenure that saw the three-time Stanley Cup champions make the playoffs only once. Owner Josh Harris announced the change less than 90 minutes before the struggling Devils beat the Tampa Bay Lightning, 3-1, at Prudential Center. Harris said assistant general manager Tom Fitzgerald would handle Shero’s duties with the help of Devils goaltending great Martin Brodeur . . . Veteran third baseman Todd Frazier and the Texas Rangers reached an agreement on a $5 million, one-year contract. Frazier, a month shy of his 34th birthday, spent the past two seasons with the Mets. He hit .251 with 21 homers and 67 RBIs in 133 games last year . . . Iran’s only female Olympic medalist said she defected from the Islamic Republic in a blistering online letter that describes herself as “one of the millions of oppressed women in Iran.” Taekwondo athlete Kimia Alizadeh posted the letter on Instagram as Iran’s semiofficial ISNA news agency said she had fled to the Netherlands. She criticized wearing the mandatory hijab headscarf and accused officials in Iran of sexism and mistreatment. “Whatever they said, I wore,’’ Alizadeh wrote in the letter posted Saturday. ‘‘Every sentence they ordered, I repeated.’’ . . . Portuguese motorbike rider Paulo Gonçalves died during the Dakar Rally after crashing in the Saudi Arabia desert. He was 40 . . . Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero has set the record for most English Premier League goals by an overseas player. Aguero moved to 177 career EPL goals after scoring a hat trick on Sunday for Man City in a 6-1 win at Aston Villa in his 255th league appearance.