Serena Williams has been knocked out of Wimbledon in the first round by an outsider who had not played on grass before this year.
Serena Williams was knocked out at Wimbledon in the first round, suffering a dramatic three-set loss to Harmony Tan.
The unseeded Frenchwoman won the first set but lost the second before keeping a cool head to death to knock over her veteran opponent 7-5 1-6 7-6 (10-7) in what was Williams’ comeback to grand slam tennis for the first time in 12 months after a long injury layoff.
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Remarkably, Tan had never played on grass this year. It was her first Wimbledon game and only her ninth ever grand slam, yet she managed to survive a living legend in a grueling battle that lasted three hours and ten minutes.
It is also the first time Williams has ever lost in the first round of the All England Club
“When I first saw the draw I was really scared. Because it’s Serena Williams, she’s a legend,” Tan said in her interview on the pitch.
“I was like, ‘How can I play?’ And if I win a game or two, that would be really good for me.
“I don’t know what to say, I’m so emotional right now because she’s a superstar.
“When I was young, I watched her on TV so much. For my first Wimbledon this is just… wow.”
The tennis world was impressed by what they saw at Center Court.
“I am speechless,” Martina Navratilova said in comment.
Tan won three games in a row in the third set, but Williams pulled out what has been described on social media as the “drop shot of her life” to take a 5-4 lead and be on the cusp of an astonishing to achieve victory.
She sank to her knees and clenched her fist, looking emotionally and physically exhausted as she went to her seat for the switch.
There were more shouts of cheers in the next game as Williams looked on course to book her spot in the second round, but Tan wouldn’t lie down and broke back to get things right.
Williams scraped her way back to deuce in the next game, but her opponent stayed calm to hold the serve and roared as she led 6-5.
To stay alive, Williams grabbed her own racket and steered the clash into a decisive final set, first-to-10 tiebreak.
The 23-time grand slam winner quickly led 4-0, but Tan, as she had done the entire match, bounced back and won five consecutive points.
Williams advanced 6-5 with a crucial stab volley, prompting Navratilova to comment: “I can’t believe that went over the net, seriously.”
Tan led 8-6 and soon it was 8-7, before an unforced error by Williams gave her rival match point. The French star made no mistake and took the biggest win of her career.
There were doubts as to whether Williams – the former world number one who has fallen to 1204th in the rankings after her spell of inactivity – would return to the sport. Last year around this time, she tearfully retired from her first round Wimbledon match after suffering an injury that left her out of action for the better part of 12 months.
But she warmed up by teaming up with Ons Jabeur in the doubles at Eastbourne last week and although extremely rusty, she showed enough grit to topple Tan.
Williams won the last of her seven Wimbledon singles titles six years ago, but reached the final in 2018 and 2019.
She was cheered as she walked onto Center Court for the evening game, waving to the crowd.
Williams, who was wildcarded into this year’s tournament, is tied for 23 Grand Slam wins – painfully one less than Margaret Court’s record.
Originally published as ‘What on earth’: Serena Williams stunned in massive Wimbledon upset