Wimbledon: Serena Williams loses first match in over a year

Serena Williams began — and ended — her comeback Wimbledon After 364 days of singles competition looks like someone who hasn't competed in that long. He missed the shot, shook his head, rolled his eyes.

In between, there were moments where Williams played like someone whose stroke and streak would bring her 23 Grand Slam titles. He celebrates with arms up, hitting blistering serves and strokes.

Returning to the site of her last singles match, which saw her stop after less than a set due to injury on June 29, 2021, and her seventh major championship, the 40-year-old Williams came within two points of victory. But she couldn't get the job done against Wimbledon debutants and lost 7-5, 1-6, 7-6 (10-7) to 115th-ranked Harmony Tan of France.

“It's definitely better than last year,” Williams said. “It's a start.”

Asked if this could be her last match, Williams replied: “That's a question I can't answer. I don't know. … Who knows? Who knows where I'll pop up?”

With her older sister Venus, leaping from her guest box seat on Center Court to celebrate the best point, Serena Williams came close to pulling out a topsy-turvy match that lasted 3 hours, 10 minutes and was contested with the retractable roof closed for the final two sets.

“For my first Wimbledon, it was: Wow. Just wow,” said Tan, 24, who recalled watching Williams on TV as a youngster.

“When I saw the draw, I was really scared,” laughed Tan, “because it's Serena Williams. She's a legend. I said to myself, 'Oh, my God, how can I play?'

That's an indication of how things were going: Of the 24-year-old Tan's first 11 points, only one came via a made winner. Others came through Williams' mistakes, either forced or unforced.

While Williams—who wore two pieces of black tape on his right cheek; The reason wasn't immediately clear — recovering from dropping the opening two games to lead 4-2, she reversed course again and let Tan quickly get back in that set.

Hitting a down-the-line backhand winner when Tan drew even at 4-all, he celebrated with a shout; That shot was so good that even Williams was forced to applaud.

Tan came into the day with a 2-6 career record in all Grand Slam tournaments. Clearly enjoying herself — and the setting, the moment, the way everything was going — she went up 6-5 with a cross-court forehand winner, looked toward her guest box, raised a fist and waved her arms to a crowd that loudly supported Williams. Ask for more words.

Soon after, a forehand passing winner gave Tan the set. At that point, it seemed reasonable to ask: Can Tan pull off the biggest win of his career? Could Williams exit a major in the first round for the third time in 80 appearances (the previous two being losses at the 2012 French Open and a mid-match retirement at Wimbledon last year)?

In the end, that's what happened.

Williams was two points ahead when serving for the match at 5-4 in the third set but could get no closer.

Williams has spent more than 300 weeks at No. 1 but is currently tied for 1,204th this time and thus requires a wild-card invitation from the All England Club to enter the bracket.

“If you're playing week in, week out or even every three weeks, every four weeks, the intensity of the matches is a little bit higher,” he said. “But having said that, I felt like I played pretty well in some of them. Not all of them. Maybe some key ones that I definitely could have played better. You have to think if I played the match, I wouldn't miss some of these points.”

Still, Tan was one point away from victory at 6-5, but Williams erased it with a forehand winner – starting a seven-point run that not only sent the match into a tiebreaker but put her 4-0 up.

However, he did not go slowly. He won five points in a row for a 5-4 lead in the new final-set tiebreaker format adopted by the four tennis majors this year: 10 points from the first, wins in two.

At crunch time, when Williams has so often excelled on such a big stage, he was stunned. Came with a tan.

“I feel very sorry for him,” Nadal said of Berretini, “because he was playing great.”

Reporting by the Associated Press

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