Serena Williams delivered a masterclass in her semi-final at the WTA Auckland Classic on Saturday, needing only 43 minutes to down rising star Amanda Anisimova and set up a showdown against Jessica Pegula.
The unsung and unseeded Pegula stunned Caroline Wozniacki in a three-set semi-final 3-6, 6-4, 6-0. Top-seed Williams, at her imperious best, rapidly eliminated third-seed Anisimova 6-1, 6-1.
It highlighted the gulf between the 38-year-old, the women’s tennis figurehead for the past two decades, and the next generation of players led by the 18-year-old Anisimova.
The mother of two-year-old Olympia said she had been working hard to juggle tennis and motherhood as she targets a 24th Grand Slam at the Australian Open later in the month.
She was all power and precision as she dominated the centre of the court and moved the teenager around, running down Anisimova’s drop shots and blunting opportunities for the young player to unleash her telling forehand.
“I was definitely in the zone today. I knew I was playing a really great player and an even better person and I knew I had to come out serious,” Williams said.
“It feels really good. I’ve been working hard for a couple of years, my daughter’s only two, I tend to be really hard on myself but considering everything, I’m doing pretty good.”
Former world No 1 Wozniacki, who has announced she will retire after the Australian Open, arrived at her penultimate tournament determined to win in Auckland at her seventh attempt to add to her 30 WTA titles.
Instead, it was the 25-year-old Pegula, the world 82nd-ranked player who won her only WTA title at the Washington Open last year, who came out on top.
The unseeded Pegula was broken twice when losing the first set before adopting an aggressive approach that fifth-seed Wozniacki had no answer for.
She wore the Dane down in the second set and then won every game in the third.
“I knew if I was going to play defensive I was not going to win that battle, she’s like the best in the world at that, so I had to step in and take my chances and trust my game,” said Pegula, the daughter of NFL Buffalo Bills owner and natural gas magnate Terry Pegula.
“Caroline’s had an amazing career and I know she’s retiring so I’m glad I got to play her before she retires and I’m happy to get the win and really excited to be in the final.”
Wozniacki has one chance left to win a title in Auckland when she partners Serena Williams in the doubles final on Sunday.