Tan gives Serena no harmony

—Not many at Wimbledon play like Harmony Tan. You’ll sometimes see puffers playing junkball on the asphalt at nearby Wimbledon Park, but not on the manicured grass at the All England Club against Serena Williams. 

But that’s how Tan beat Williams 7-5 1-6 7-6(7). Tan’s variety of slices, chips, dropshots and bloopers from both sides gave Serena very little of the rhythm and pace that she thrives upon. Tan even hit a serve at 62 mph, which Serena smacked for a winner, and then threw off Serena’s timing with 100 mph serves. Tan also mixed up her game by ripping hard flat backhands down the line on big points, and she made Serena move toward exhaustion late in the match. 

“Any other opponent probably would have suited my game better,” said Williams. “It was definitely a very long battle and fight and it’s definitely better than last year. That’s a start. I think physically I did pretty good. I think the last couple of points I was really suffering there.”

After her first match since last year’s Wimbledon, Serena noted that it’s tough to prepare against such tactics, especially with hitting partners who tend to actually hit the ball. Serena thought she would have beaten other players on the day, and she didn’t rule out returning to Wimbledon next year or the US Open later this summer. 

Serena certainly had reason to expect to beat Tan, age 24, who had never previously won a match on grass, and has won only 9 tour level matches in her career. 

“When I saw the draw I was really scared,” Tan said after her victory. “Because it’s Serena Williams, she’s a legend. I thought if I could win one or two games it was really good for me.”

She said her coach Nathalie Tauziat told her to just enjoy the spectacle of playing on Centre Court at Wimbledon against the 23-time grand slam champion. 

Still, she said she didn’t believe she could win until she was up 9-7 in the 10-point tiebreaker, a new rule this year. At the post-match press conference, Tan said she still couldn’t believe that she beat Serena on Wimbledon Centre Court. 

Tan should give herself more credit. Her tricky, junk-ball style of tennis has worked well here for Hsieh Su-Wei of Taiwan, and if it works against Serena, it might work against others.  

—words and images copyright Christopher Johnson Globalite Media, all rights reserved