Serena Williams loses Wimbledon thriller, discusses tennis future
Serena Williams lost in her first singles match in 364 days as 115th-ranked Frenchwoman Harmony Tan outlasted her 7-5, 1-6, 7-6 (7) in the Wimbledon first round in Williams’ longest match in a decade -- 3 hours, 11 minutes.
Williams, a 40-year-old with 23 Grand Slam singles titles, did not say definitively in a press conference afterward whether she plans to continue playing competitive tennis.
Asked if it was likely her last singles match, she said, “That’s a question I can’t answer. Who knows? Who knows where I’ll pop up.”
Asked if she’s OK if this is her last memory at Wimbledon, she said, “Obviously not. You know me. Definitely not.”
Asked if there’s any part of her that wants to play the U.S. Open in two months, she said, “That being the first place I’ve won a Grand Slam [in 1999], is something that’s always super special. ... There’s definitely lots of motivation to get better and to play at home.”
Williams followed a rusty first set with a more Serena-like second set, which included a marathon 30-point second game.
She squandered a third-set break of serve, failing to serve out the match. In the 10-point super tiebreak, she won the first four points, then lost the next four points. Tan went up a mini break at 8-6 in the tiebreak, then served it out.
“If you’re playing week in, week out, or even every three weeks, every four weeks, there’s a little bit more match toughness,” Williams said. “You’ve got to think if I were playing matches, I wouldn’t miss some of those points, or this match.”
It was Williams’ first three-hour match since her 2012 French Open first-round loss to another Frenchwoman, Virginie Razzano (which was 3:03). Those are her lone two defeats in completed first-round matches in her Grand Slam career.
“It definitely makes me want to hit the practice courts because ... you’re playing not bad, and you’re so close,” Williams said. “It’s actually kind of like, OK, Serena, you can do this if you want.”
Before the tournament, Williams said she was largely motivated to take a wild card into Wimbledon by what happened last year at the All England Club. Last June 29, she tore a hamstring in a first-round match and withdrew, leaving her future in tennis in the air.
“It was always something since the match ended that was always on my mind,” she said Saturday. “So it was a tremendous amount of motivation for that.”
Also Tuesday, Coco Gauff rallied past Romanian Elena-Gabriela Ruse 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 in her first major match since her French Open runner-up result.
Gauff, ranked a career-high No. 12, made the fourth round in her two previous Wimbledon appearances, including her breakthrough Coco Mania run at age 15 in 2019.
She celebrated her high school graduation last month in Paris and is the youngest player in the women’s draw of 128 at Wimbledon. She is the youngest player in the WTA top 140.
“I feel like I’m a lot more relaxed than when I was considered the sensation,” Gauff said before the tournament. “It felt like everybody wanted the results to happen now, now, now. I feel like I learned so much not to put pressure on now, now, now. This time around, even though I’m considered a favorite, I don’t feel like it as much as I did when I was 15 or even 16. ... I felt like I was a little bit delusional in my head about how much people wanted me to win, whereas now I feel like if it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.”
Gauff next gets Romanian Mihaela Buzarnescu, who at 34 is nearly twice her age.
Poland’s Iga Swiatek, who defeated Gauff in the French Open final, dispatched Croatian Jana Fett 6-0, 6-3 to run her win streak to 36 matches, the longest in women’s tennis in 25 years.
Swiatek earned her 17th bagel set this year in 48 matches, matching Steffi Graf‘s number through her Wimbledon first-round match (41 matches) in her 1988 Golden Slam year.
If Swiatek wins her next match, she will tie the longest women’s streak since Graf won 66 in a row in 1989-90.
Rafael Nadal, halfway to a calendar Grand Slam, beat Argentine Francisco Cerundolo 6-4, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 in his first Wimbledon match since 2019.
With 2021 Wimbledon runner-up Matteo Berrettini‘s withdrawal Tuesday, Nadal is the lone player in his half of the draw who has made a Wimbledon final.
American serve-and-volleyer Maxime Cressy took out No. 6 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-7 (5), 6-4, 7-6 (9), 7-6 (5). Auger-Aliassime was the other top-10 seed in Nadal’s quarter.
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