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A tough, different journey and a Wimbledon novice: discovering Harmony Tan, conqueror of Serena Williams
Remi Bourrieres details the development of the Frenchwoman, who stepped up to the honour and challenge of facing Serena Williams in round one at Wimbledon
Jackpot for Harmony Tan! The 24-year-old Frenchwoman, ranked 113th in the world, drew Serena Williams in the first round of Wimbledon – and stunned the great champion as well as the general public, to whom she is still relatively unknown. Yet she has a rich and atypical career that deserves to be discovered.
Tan “created herself” in the private sector, the hard way
Born in Paris (September 11, 1997) and having trained in the Val-de-Marne League in the suburbs of Paris, Harmony Tan has never been a product of the French federation, blocked in her childhood by the best players of her age, including Fiona Ferro.
She is now a member of the TC Boulogne-Billancourt, not far from Roland-Garros, and has therefore continued to progress privately, making sacrifices with the financial support of her family (including the sale of a house) and going abroad to the Bollettieri Academy in Florida or to the home of Melanie Molitor, Martina Hingis’ mother, in Switzerland.
To avoid spreading herself too thin, Tan hardly spent any time in the junior ranks, preferring to get on the pro circuit as early as possible: she played her first ITF tournament in 2012, at the age of 14, before joining the INSEP (the National Institute of Sport, Expertise, and Performance) at 16.
She is an artist, intellectual and sportswoman at heart
Harmony Tan did a lot of things during her youth: in addition to tennis, she also practiced dance, judo and golf. But the activity she practised most assiduously, apart from the yellow ball, was the piano, as she attended the Conservatory for seven years, with a mainly classical training.
Of Vietnamese and Cambodian heritage, she has also taken her studies quite far, following the wishes of her parents: she obtained her baccalaureate, and then followed the Sciences Po Paris programme reserved for high-level athletes.
Today, Tan has a great passion outside of tennis: surfing, which she practices regularly in the Landes or on the Basque Coast, where she frequently stays.
She works with Nathalie Tauziat and Sam Sumyk
It was in the south-west that she met the person who has been coaching her for several years: Nathalie Tauziat, a Wimbledon finalist in 1998, and now based in Biarritz. Tauziat, who took her from the 500th place in the world to the top 100, has naturally focused her progress on offensive tennis and net play. But she also helped her a lot mentally.
“Harmony is taking her time, she lacks confidence,” the former world No 3 told rmcsport last year. “She has a long way to go, first of all because we didn’t believe in her that much. Little by little, it comes from giving her the means to do more things.”
Over time, Harmony Tan has also been able to develop the structure of her team. Long followed by Pierre Bouteyre (Alizé Cornet’s former coach), she integrated Sam Sumyk, the French technician based in the United States who has worked with Vera Zvonareva, Victoria Azarenka and Garbiñe Muguruza, into her team at the end of last season.
Her tennis is varied and inspired
Harmony Tan is not what you would call a slugger. Nor is she a player with big strengths and clearly identified weaknesses. Instead, she is the type of player who does a little bit of everything, depending on her mood at the time – her artistic side, no doubt – and of course the surface.
This results in inspired and varied tennis, which is nowadays rather forward-looking, no doubt thanks to Nathalie Tauziat’s touch. As they say, Harmony has good hands, which allows her to master the backhand slice, the drop shot and the volley. She doesn’t hesitate to serve and volley from time to time, which could be useful on grass. If she had to pick out one shot that she particularly masters, it would be the backhand down the line. She plays the backhand with both hands (she’s right-handed), to be complete.
In any case, even if Tan has never played in the main draw at Wimbledon, her tennis seems to be made to adapt to grass. This was evidenced by a semi-final finish last week at a WTA 125 grass court event in Italy.
She has already won two Grand Slam matches but never faced a player of Serena’s level
Having only broken through the top 100 this year – she reached her highest ranking of 90th in April – Harmony is not used to facing players at the level of Serena Williams, even though the latter, who has been absent for a year, has hardly any WTA ranking and is a wildcard at Wimbledon.
The strongest player the Frenchwoman has faced so far is Elina Svitolina (17th in the world), losing in the second round of the Australian Open earlier this year. She was forced to retire with an injury. It was a pity, because she had just won her second Grand Slam match after beating Alizé Cornet at Roland Garros in 2021.
But little by little, the woman who fell from the second floor of her school when she was eight years old is learning the ropes. Last April, she played her first match in the Billie Jean King Cup, replacing the injured Clara Burel. She lost badly to Camila Giorgi, but gained a little more experience. Now she seems to be ready for the very high level.