Serena stunned in first round epic

Unseeded Harmony Tan overcame her fears of a Wimbledon nightmare to knock out seven-time champion Serena Williams in their first round encounter to turn Centre Court into her own personal dreamland.

The 24-year-old French debutant prevailed against the 23-time Grand Slam champion over three sets on Tuesday to secure her first career win on grass and advance to the second round at the expense of the former world No 1.

Though Williams' first singles match in a year ended in defeat, she still managed to bring the Centre Court crowd to its feet as they saluted a champion's performance in a match that lasted over three hours.

Williams lost 7-5 1-6 7-6(10-7) to Harmony Tan but not before the 40-year-old American enthralled the crowd and even saved a match point before she fell in the tiebreak.

France's Harmony Tan celebrates beating Serena Williams on Centre Court. Photo: Reuters
France's Harmony Tan celebrates beating Serena Williams on Centre Court. Photo: Reuters

"It's a dream because, you know, I saw Serena on the TV when I was young," Tan said after the match.

"My coach, Nathalie Tauziat, played her 20 years ago. So, yeah, it's a big generation. She's a legend. I mean, she won 23 grand slams. When you play her, I was scared. I mean, I was scared when I was on the court, but really happy to be there."

Tauziat, who also coaches 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu, has her own history at Wimbledon, finishing as a runner-up to Jana Novotna in 1998 when Tan was less than a year old.

"She just told me enjoy because it's your first time in Wimbledon," Tan said of the pre-match advice given to her by Tauziat.

"You play on Centre Court against Serena. And, yeah, just enjoy the match."

Tan, ranked 115th in the world, did much more than that, winning the first set 7-5 against Williams before the American stormed back to take the second, dropping a solitary game in the process.

As Wimbledon's 11pm curfew loomed, the pair battled towards a third set tie break which Tan eventually won as a weary Williams gave up an early lead to crash out after more than three hours of play.

The Frenchwoman, who has never progressed beyond the second round of a Grand Slam, was at a loss to describe how she managed to turn the match in her favour.

"I don't know because I play every ball like just, put some slice, some change, some variety on the game," she said. "And it works today."

Serena Williams acknowledges the Wimbledon crowd after losing her three-set match. Photo: Reuters
Serena Williams acknowledges the Wimbledon crowd after losing her three-set match. Photo: Reuters

Rusty champion

Of course nobody goes on for ever, not even Williams who has performed numerous near miracles throughout a career spanning three decades.

Still, it made for uncomfortable viewing seeing the rusty champion a faded shadow of the player who has won so many Grand Slam singles crowns.

For having long made a habit of seeing off lesser mortals while cruising at barely half pace, on Tuesday there seemed nothing to dig into, no extra gear, nor any aura to lend an advantage.

Instead she brandished blunted tools and slumped to a three-set defeat before contemplating her future.

"That's a question I can't answer," the 40-year-old said when asked if she would return to Wimbledon. "Like, I don't know. I feel like, you know, I don't know. Who knows? Who knows where I'll pop up.

"Today I gave all I could do ... Maybe tomorrow I could have gave more. Maybe a week ago I could have gave more. But today was what I could do. At some point you have to be able to be okay with that."


Nadal through, Swiatek extends streak

Day two got under way on a sour note when eighth seed Matteo Berrettini, last year's runner-up, became the second top player to pull out with Covid-19 after Marin Cilic's withdrawal.

An already depleted men's draw only got poorer when Canadian sixth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime was knocked out in the first round by Maxime Cressy, who fought back from a set down to prevail 6-7(5) 6-4 7-6(9) 7-6(5) in over four hours.

Rafa Nadal's participation had been in doubt earlier this month due to a foot injury but, barring a third set wobble, he came through his first match on grass in three years to beat Argentine Francisco Cerundolo 6-4 6-3 3-6 6-4.

Nick Kyrgios provided fireworks in a five-set win over Briton Paul Jubb in a match marred by arguments with a line judge, the chair umpire and a heckler, with the Australian admitting he spat in the direction of the fan booing him.

World No 1 Iga Swiatek won her 36th consecutive match to record the longest winning streak in the women's game in the 21st century when she beat Croatia's Jana Fett 6-0 6-3.

Former No 1  Simona Halep, making her first appearance at the All England Club since lifting the title in 2019, beat Karolina Muchova 6-3 6-2, while Coco Gauff overcame a first set hiccup to beat Elena-Gabriela Ruse 2-6 6-3 7-5.

Petra Kvitova, another former Wimbledon champion, was also made to work in her first round clash where she beat Jasmine Paolini 2-6 6-4 6-2.

Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter