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Serena Williams’ return to Wimbledon ends with dramatic loss to Harmony Tan

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Wimbledon
CNN

Serena Williams’ return to singles tennis after a year-long absence ended with a dramatic 5-7, 6-1, 6-7 (7-10) first-round loss to France’s Harmony Tan at Wimbledon.

Williams, watched by her family in the stands, lost a tight first set before leveling the match in the second on Center Court, the site of seven of her 23 Grand Slam singles titles.

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It was a break in the third, but Tan showed her resilience by fighting back to take a thrilling final set in a nail-biting tiebreak.

Asked if it was the last singles match of his long and illustrious career, Williams said it was a question he “couldn’t answer”.

“Who knows where I’ll show up?” she added.

Williams played her first competitive matches in nearly a year at Eastbourne last week, partnering Ons Jabeur in the doubles event. The pair reached the semi-finals but had to withdraw after Jabeur suffered a knee injury.

On Tuesday, she made her long-awaited return to singles, a year after retiring in her final first-round match at Wimbledon.

Momentum shifted between the two players over the course of the three-hour, 10-minute encounter: first in favor of Tan as she came through the first set, then in favor of Williams as she rallied in the second.

It looked like the 40-year-old Williams would prevail in the deciding set as she served out the victory, but the memorable return was not to be.

Tan fell back at 5-5 and despite failing to convert a match point at 6-5, he made no mistake when he got a second chance in the tiebreaker.

Harmony Tan showed resilience throughout her upset and dramatic victory over Serena Williams.

Ranked No. 115 in the world, Tan was playing her first Wimbledon main draw match and ninth at all Grand Slams.

“When I saw the draw, I was really scared,” he said after the game. “It’s Serena Williams, she’s a legend. I was like, ‘My God, how can I play?’ And if I can win one or two games, it’s really good for me.”

Under center court lights, Tan comfortably did more than that: triumph against one of the greatest athletes the sport has ever seen.

“For my first Wimbledon, it’s amazing. Just wow,” she added, struggling to find the words to capture her emotions.

It is unclear if this was Williams’ last performance at Wimbledon. When she was asked to summarize her legacy in the tournament, she was succinct, yet understated.

“I think I’m pretty solid on grass,” she said. “Maybe not today, but pretty solid.”

In Tuesday’s previous games on Center Court, there were victories for this year’s French Open champions Rafael Nadal and Iga Swiatek.

Two-time Wimbledon winner Nadal survived a scare to beat Francisco Cerundolo 6-4 6-3 3-6 6-4 as he began his quest for a 23rd Grand Slam title, while Swiatek recorded his 36th victory in a row by beating Jana Fett 6-0 6-3.

Nadal, who missed last year’s tournament due to injury, received a warm reception on Center Court, where he was put to the harsh test by Cerundolo of Argentina.

Nadal seeks return against Cerundolo.

The Spaniard seemed headed for a routine win when he was 2-0 and down a break in the third set, but the free-swinging Cerundolo fought back with a double break to take the set.

The match seemed headed for a decider when the World No. 41 broke in the fourth, only for Nadal to save the best for last and seal victory with a double break.

Meanwhile, Swiatek dominated the first set against Fett in his first match since the French Open, but had to overcome a difficult period in the second when Fett came close to securing a double break.

The top seed recovered from the shaky start to the set and rattled off five games in a row, extending her winning streak to 36 matches.

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