Serena Williams crashed out at Wimbledon 2022 with a loss to debutant Harmony Tan in a classic first-round encounter on center court.
The 40-year-old, who has won the women’s singles title seven times, couldn’t summon her old magic and suffered just her third first-round loss at a Grand Slam, losing 7-5 1 -6 7-6 (7) in a decisive tie-break after three hours and ten minutes in what could well be his farewell to Wimbledon.
Williams was rusty to the extreme in the first two games, her footwork leaden and her ball-striking wayward, but she gradually began to find some rhythm.
The American was particularly vocal, screaming at every winner and error, and it worked as she took a 4-2 lead.
But the main question mark was always going to be around Williams’ fitness and she was huffing hard as Tan finally cracked after a long service game.
The Frenchwoman couldn’t hope to match her opponent for power, but had considerable success with skillful drop shots and lobs and looked like she was enjoying herself as she took a 6-5 lead.
Williams had a chance to equalize and force a tie-break but looked anxious and couldn’t convert as Tan advanced.
As darkness approached, a brief pause for the top to be closed worked in Williams’ favor. She cut through some of the mistakes and shouting, and set about recovering the deficit, breaking Tan in the second game of the set after a remarkable streak of 12 twos.
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When Williams, who won the last of her seven singles titles here in 2016, took a 3-1 lead in the deciding set, it appeared the hardest part was behind her.
But two doubles matches at Eastbourne last week were hardly preparation for a return to Grand Slam singles and things got complicated again.
Williams began to show her emotions again, jumping up in celebration of the good times and waving her arms in desperation in the face of the bad.
She ducked deeper into trouble after failing to serve out the game at 5-4, but fended off a practice volley to save a match point at 5-6 and force a decisive first-to-first tie-break. 10 dots.
Williams took a 4-0 lead but, on the stage where she has triumphed on so many occasions, this time there was to be no happy ending.
At the start of this match, news broke that Serena’s older sister Venus was set to make a shock return to the tournament.
It is widely reported that the 42-year-old will team up with Jamie Murray in mixed doubles, but that will be confirmed on Wednesday.
Serena teamed up with Murray’s younger brother Andy in 2019 but was knocked out in the second round.
However, older brother Murray is a doubles specialist, having won five Grand Slam mixed doubles titles, including two at Wimbledon. He also has two Grand Slam tournaments in men’s doubles to his credit.