Even after a year’s absence from TennisSerena Williams has not forgotten how to entertain.
to her Back to the Grand Slam events At Wimbledon on Tuesday – it was a three hour and 11 minute brawl with Frenchman Harmony Tan – theatrical and captivating, but it ultimately ended in defeat.
In the longest-running women’s singles draw to date, Tan ranked 115th in the world and made her debut at Wimbledon, not to mention the main stage on Center Court, nerve-wracking in the crucial break for victory. 7-5 1-6 7-6 (10-7).
This clearly wasn’t the most rock-solid performance in Williams’ illustrious career, and she won’t be given time away from the game.
But when the roof was closed and the lights turned on in the central court – a sight that impressed viewers – the two players put on a very dramatic show.
In the end, it was Tan that broke Williams’ comeback party, and on several occasions produced shots that won applause from her opponent on the other side of the net.
“On my first Wimbledon – it’s great. Just awesome,” Tan, who had lost her words, said in her court interview.
Few of the attendees could disagree.
Williams, who turned 40 last September, is refusing to give up her quest for her 24th Grand Slam title, five years after winning her last Australian Open title.
“Who knows where I will appear,” she told reporters when asked about her future, and even indicated that an appearance at the US Open might be on the table later this year.
“The US Open – that’s the first place I’ve won a Grand Slam – is always something very special,” Williams added. “Your first time is always special. There is definitely a lot of motivation to get better and play at home.”
Rust was expected during Williams’ return to Wimbledon, and it took her time to find some rhythm against Tan. Prior to Tuesday, her only competitive descent over the past year had been two doubles matches at Eastbourne last week.
She was broken in the first half, but by the fourth she was starting to find her feet – her hits hit the ground much cleaner when she responded with a double break from Tan’s serve.
However, the first set proved to be indicative of the match as a whole: Just as Williams seemed to have the upper hand over her opponent, Tan was making her way back into the competition.
This was the case on several occasions in the final set as Williams had twice lead in the first half, then raced into an early lead in the crucial tiebreaker, only to Tan to win 10 of the next 13 points and take her biggest win. Career path career path.
Tuesday’s game was a distinct contrast of styles. Williams’ offensive showing was a loser as she landed 61 winners – a combination of powerful ground kicks and fast driving strokes – punctuated by 54 non-forced fouls.
Tan, on the other hand, was more conservative and relied heavily on her chip to move Williams around the court – a tactic the American later admitted took her by surprise.
“I think I could have played anyone, [it] It might have had a different outcome,” she said. “I knew there was a lot of cutting, but not so much in the forehands. I definitely had to try to find my rhythm there. You know, hindsight is 20/20.”
The upshot for Williams, who retired against Aleksandra Sasnovich in the first round of Wimbledon last year after slipping and injuring her leg, was that her body held up well against a tan.
“Physically I was fine,” she added. “The last two points I’m starting to really feel for. But I’m moving really well, getting a lot of balls back. I’m making really good progress in practice.
“It wasn’t surprising to me because I knew I was doing it well. I didn’t train for a three-hour match you know. I think that’s where I went wrong.”
Before Wimbledon, Williams pondered how tennis was no longer her only focus in life. Off the field, motherhood, her business, and the release of the King Richard movie, which she helped produce, occupied her time.
“It was completely different, honestly. I feel like a part of me is a part of my life now that is a little bit more heroic,” she said last week.
But that doesn’t mean Williams is quite ready to say goodbye to tennis – even if she remains hesitant about when and where her next appearance will be.
And if anything, the defeat to Tan made the tennis fires even brighter.
“It definitely makes me want to go to the training grounds,” she said, “because when you’re not playing badly and you’re so close… it’s actually kind of like, ‘Okay, Serena, you can do that if you want to.'” ”
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