Like the lioness she always was, she fought until the end. But like the exhausted and out of breath player she is a little more every day, Serena Williams finally gave in. Exhausted by more than three hours of combat (3h11), the American, her right cheek dressed in two black bandages, bowed to the French Harmony Tan (7-5, 1-6, 7-6 ), Tuesday night in the first round of Wimbledon. His last ? The answer will wait.
Shy start from Serena Williams, her breath quickly short
364 days after his last official match, on this same center, when he retired in the first round of Wimbledon against Aliaksandra Sasnovich last year (3-3, ab), Williams logically started the game timidly, in search of his sensations and its rhythm. Four fouls (two backhand, two on the fly) on the first five points gave Tan an entry break. Despite signs of early breathlessness, the “quadra”, who uttered his first cry of rage of the evening behind a service winner at 2-0, gradually increased his intensity. Enough to come back and then pass, 4-2.
A statistic suggested what the rest of this meeting would look like: after three games, Williams had hit 75% of his shots inside the court, against only 8% for Tan. To avoid engaging in long repetitive rallies, the American had to try to make the difference on the first racket strokes, in particular very aggressive returns, when the young Frenchwoman (24 years old) was taking shape with the objective of exhaust his opponent with amortized-lob sequences and grazing slices forcing him to hit low supports.
When she managed to settle with both feet in the field and send big slaps of forehand or backhand, the one who won 23 Grand Slam titles (the last at the Australian Open 2017) regularly took the above. When Tan reversed the exchange with a good defense and offered his little kitchen of slices and drop shots, everything became more delicate, especially in the forward runs and the little game at the net.
This is how the crossover (2-0 Tan, 4-2 Williams, 7-5 Tan) continued until the end of a first round finally won by the Frenchwoman, thanks in particular to a series of slices followed by a winning cross forehand to break at 5-5, then a winning passing to conclude the set in 1h04.
The joy of Harmony Tan after the super tie-break. (P. Lahalle/The Team)
Williams, what a heart!
Physically scarred, Williams nevertheless started the second round, played under the roof, at night, with a shutout before engaging in a huge showdown of nearly 20 minutes (12 draws!) on Tan’s service. Her seventh break point was the right one, the overwhelmed Frenchwoman sending a forehand to the referee’s chair. The American saved four break points on the following game then flew away to quickly pick up a set everywhere.
The fight resumed with a vengeance in an intense third round where each responded to the accelerations of the other. Led 3-1, jostled by the increasingly precise reverses of the youngest of the Williams sisters, Tan found the resources to react, until leading 4-3. But she had in front of her a player on a mission, driven by a will that belongs only to her.
Almost possessed, Serena Williams managed the break at 4-4 and raised her arms to the sky for the first time, tears in her eyes. However, at the time of concluding on her service, she cracked. On a climb in socks, she was punished by a passing from Tan who returned to height then passed in front, 6-5.
Back to the wall, Williams made a huge mistake in a high backhand volley which offered a match point to his opponent. She saved her with a… high forehand volley this time! This meeting like no other had to end with a great tie-break. As throughout the match, the two players went blow for blow: 4-0 Williams then 5-4 Tan who managed the mini-break with a forehand in the substitution to lead 8-6. At 9-7, the American sent a final forehand into the net.
Tan, who had ” afraid “ discovering the table, had just won the most prestigious match of his career. Williams, she left the court, greeting the public, smiling.