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End of the road? 115th-ranked Harmony Tan ends Serena Williams’ comeback bid at Wimbledon

The seven-time Wimbledon champion couldn’t come through a battle of attrition on Centre Court.

Serena Williams Wimbledon 2022 28th June 2022, All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, London, England; Wimbledon Tennis tournament; Serena Williams during her match with Harmony Tan in the womens singles © AI / Reuters / Panoramic

Serena Williams made her way back to the Grand Slam stage one year after a devastating injury forced her to abandon her hopes of a 24th major title in the first round at Wimbledon.

The intention? To create a more palatable memory – and possibly make a run to a long coveted 24th major title.

After falling to France’s Harmony Tan, 7-5, 1-6, 7-6(7) on Centre Court on Tuesday evening, the dream of an 8th Wimbledon title is dead, but the memory of her most recent loss will be far sweeter.

“It was definitely better than last year,” Williams told reporters, as she hinted that she intends to continue her illustrious career. “It’s a start.”

“Today was what I can do, and at some point you have to be able to be okay with that – that’s all I can do. I can’t change time or anything. That’s all I can do on this particular day.”

— Serena Williams

As she has done consistently over the course of her legendary career, Williams gave every ounce of her being to the contest. She hit emotional highs and lows throughout the roller coaster battle, and whipped the crowd into a frenzy at several junctures of the three hour and 11-minute grind.

The only thing missing was the victory.

Time spares no tennis player – even GOAT candidates

At the age of 40, the reality is setting in for Williams. She didn’t just lose to Tan, whose clever courtcraft and deft touch took center stage on Tuesday. She also lost to Father Time. Things that the once dominant American made look easy in her prime don’t come naturally now that she is less than three months shy of her 41st birthday.

Williams acknowledged this fact in her post-match press conference.

“Today was what I can do, and at some point you have to be able to be okay with that – that’s all I can do. I can’t change time or anything. That’s all I can do on this particular day.”

And yet, Williams was there, looking to summon the magic at every instant. She had a lead in the opening set, and when she squandered it she doubled down and cruised through the second set. Even in the third set, with fatigue setting in, the legend had her nose in front. She lead by a break midway through the set, but it simply wasn’t meant to be.

Tan’s reaction: oh my God, how can I play?

Full credit to Tan, who played with perfect purpose from start to finish, and used her variety to expose Serena’s movement and stamina. The tactic didn’t pay off on every point, but on a whole it was the perfect way to attack the powerful superstar. Take her legs out, piece by piece, and be there when opportunities present themselves.

Tan certainly didn’t play like someone with a 2-6 lifetime record at the majors and not a single main draw match at Wimbledon to her name. She was poised, patient and picked her spots to attack. It was a well-deserved win, and one that she’ll cherish for the rest of her career.

“I’m really surprised today,” said Tan. “When I saw the draw I was really scared, because, yes, it’s Serena Williams – she’s a legend and I was like ‘Oh my God, how can I play.’ If I can win one game or two games, it was really good for me.”

Williams’ last match? Not so fast

Reporters wanted to know if Serena had plans to continue her career, starting with the US Open. The American isn’t ready to answer that question at this time.

“That’s a question I can’t answer,” she said. “Like, I don’t know. I feel like, you know, I don’t know. Who knows? Who knows where I’ll pop up.”

But Williams, who list a first-round match at a major for just the third time in her career, did hint that she’s eager to see how well she could play if she played on the tour more consistently.

She also expressed desire to test herself again on the practice courts and, more specifically, at this year’s US Open.

“It definitely makes me want to hit the practice courts,” she said at one point during her press conference, before adding: “There’s definitely, you know, lots of motivation to get better and to play at home.”

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