Serena Williams lost her first singles match on Tuesday, falling to unseeded Harmony Tan in the first round of Wimbledon 7-5, 1-6, 7/6 (10/7). Tan said, “For my first Wimbledon, it’s amazing — absolutely wow.”
Williams, a seven-time winner, was applauded when she entered Centre Court for the evening match, but she seemed rusty and lost her serve in the first game.
Williams, who was much below her dominant best and seemed to be lacking in fitness, recovered and broke in the fourth game to tie the match at 2-2 with the help of an enthusiastic crowd at the All England Club.
The two continued trade breaks, but Tan, ranked 115th, broke once again in the eleventh game and maintained her composure to win the set 7-5.
After a long second game in the second set, Williams, a 23-time Grand Slam singles winner, broke and leveled the match 6-1.
The American broke first in the final, but Tan tied the score at 3-3.
Williams triumphantly raised her arms in the air after breaking again in the ninth game, but she struggled when it came time to serve for the match.
In the 12th game, she had a match point on her service, but a forehand volley saved it, sending the match into a third-set tie-break.
Williams picked up the pace and won the opening four points as the action neared its three-hour mark inside Wimbledon.
However, her French opponent was still fighting and took the following five points to take the lead.
Williams faced a second match point but was unable to reach the back of the net despite seeming out of breath.
Now I’m feeling emotional,” Tan added. She’s a rock star. She was someone I watched on TV a lot when I was little.
“I was terrified when I saw the sketch. She is a legend. I believed that winning one or two games would be beneficial for me.
Williams injured herself during her Wimbledon first-round match a year ago and has not played singles tennis again until Tuesday.
The likelihood that the former world number one would return to the sport had been waning as she dropped to position 1,204 in the standings due to her absence.
However, she warmed up by playing in the doubles at Eastbourne last week with Ons Jabeur.
Williams, 40, won her seventh Wimbledon singles title six years before, yet she still made it to the championship match in 2018 and 2019.
The American, who received a wildcard for this year’s competition, is locked at 23 Grand Slam singles victories, one agonizing victory shy of Margaret Court’s record.