WIMBLEDON, England – Serena Williams, playing her first competitive singles match in 364 days, received another devastating early exit at Wimbledon with a 7-5, 1-6, 7-6 (10-7) loss to Harmony Tan on Tuesday. . that took more than three hours and a 10-point third-set tiebreak to decide.
“Today I gave everything I could do, you know, today,” a dejected Williams told a roomful of reporters after the game. “Maybe tomorrow I could have given more. Maybe a week ago I could have given more. But today was what I could do.
“At some point you have to be able to be okay with that. And that’s all I can do. I can’t change the time or anything, so that’s all I can do on this particular day.”
Playing Tan, who is ranked 115th and was making her tournament main draw debut, in front of an adoring crowd on Center Court, Williams simultaneously showed signs of rust along with flashes of her trademark brilliance.
When he finished, both players received a standing ovation from those present in the stands. Williams, 40, the owner of 23 Grand Slam singles titles, waved several times as she walked off the court and spun around before disappearing at the start. There has been a lot of speculation about Williams retiring, and she did little to dispel that speculation after Tuesday’s game, giving vague answers to multiple questions about her future.
“That’s a question I can’t answer,” Williams said after the loss. “Like, I don’t know. I feel like, you know, I don’t know. Who knows? Who knows where I’ll show up.”
Williams had not played competitively in singles since being forced to withdraw from her first-round match at the All England Club in 2021 due to what she later revealed to be a torn hamstring. While she initially hoped to return in time for the US Open last year, her recovery was much longer than she had anticipated and she took time off to recover.
But he couldn’t escape the lingering disappointment of his 2021 Wimbledon exit.
“It was a lot of motivation, to be honest,” Williams said before the tournament began. “It was always something from the end of the game that was always on my mind. So it was a big motivation for that.”
He decided in the spring to return to the All England Club, after a whirlwind year filled with recovery and off-pitch interests and activities. He began his competitive comeback last week in doubles at Eastbourne, alongside Ons Jabeur, to great fanfare. The two reached the semi-finals before they were forced to withdraw due to Jabeur’s knee injury, but Williams still believed he had gained valuable experience from the match.
Still, he needed the first few games of Tuesday’s match against Tan to rediscover his form, and his opening game was riddled with errors.
“I had a few chances to win that first set,” Williams said. “You know, [it] It didn’t work out, so…yeah, it was just, yeah, different, totally different for me.”
But, as she has done countless times throughout her career, Williams fought back with a dominant performance in the second set, which included winning a marathon 30-point run in the second game.
He seemed in control in the third, leading 3-1, but Tan came back to win the next three games. From there, it was a battle in which the crowd seemed to live and breathe with every point, with both players reacting emphatically throughout.
It came to a head when Williams saved a match point at 5-6 in the third set to finally force a decisive tie break.
In the first-to-10 tiebreaker, Williams jumped out to a 4-0 lead. However, in the final moments, it spiraled out of control and Tan dominated.
“I think the last two points I struggled a lot,” said Williams, who lost 16 of 24 rallies in the match that lasted nine shots or more. “But, yeah, I feel like just on those key points, winning some of those points is always a mental thing that you have to have, that you need. I did pretty well on one or two of them, but obviously it’s not enough.”
If this is the end of Williams, it will mark the conclusion of one of the greatest careers in the sport. With 23 major titles, including seven at the All England Club, Williams has the most of any player in the Open Era. She has been trying to tie Margaret Court’s record of 24, the most ever, since returning from childbirth in 2018. Since then, she has played in four finals at those 14 majors, including at Wimbledon in 2018 and 2019, but it has fallen short every time.
However, Williams did not completely rule out an appearance at the US Open later this summer.
“When you’re home, especially in New York, and the US Open, which is the first place I’ve ever won a Grand Slam, it’s something that’s always super special,” Williams said. “Your first time is always special.
“There’s definitely, you know, a lot of motivation to get better and play at home.”
Tan’s future is a little clearer. She now has the opportunity to play her third round of 64 at a Grand Slam on Thursday against No.32 seed Sara Sorribes Tormo. But she didn’t seem ready to start thinking about it just yet after Tuesday’s win.
“It’s a dream because, you know, I saw Serena on TV when I was young,” Tan said. “My coach, Nathalie Tauziat, played her 20 years ago…
“She’s a legend. I mean, she won 23 Grand Slams. When you play her, I was scared. I mean, I was scared when she was on the court, but really happy to be there.”