Serena Williams returned to the court on Tuesday for the first time since suffering a hamstring injury during the opening round of Wimbledon in 2021. Williams put on quite the fight against Harmony Tan, but after three hours and 11 minutes, the veteran had to accept an early exit at The Championships.
It was just the third time Williams failed to advance past the first round of a Grand Slam -- and just her second loss. Williams fell to Virginie Razzano in the first round of the 2012 French Open and Williams retired due to injury during her first round match against Aliaksandra Sasnovich at Wimbledon in 2021
Tan beat Williams in a final set tie-break, wrapping up her Wimbledon debut winning 7-5, 1-6, 7-6 (10-7). The French player entered the match ranked 115th. Meanwhile, this was Williams' 21st time playing at Wimbledon, a competition in which she had reached the championship match 11 times -- and won seven -- in the previous 20 occasions.
Williams said she felt ok with her performance and took it easy on herself after the loss because she knew her long absence was going to affect her.
"It was definitely a very long battle and fight," she said during the post-match press conference. "It's definitely better than last year, that's a start."
The seven-time Wimbledon champion won the coin toss and elected to serve. She was off to a slow start and ultimately lost the first set. Not surprising as she made 22 unforced errors compared to Tan's nine. During a short delay between sets, this became an indoor match after the Centre Court retractable roof was closed.
Williams shook off the rust and dominated the second set, winning 81% of her first serve points. The third was a lot tighter and both athletes appeared tired. Williams celebrated when she took a 5-4 lead, but that was short-lived as her opponent tied it soon after.
They went back and forth for a while with no clear winner in sight. Once it got to the tie breaker, Williams started out strong and took a 4-0 advantage. Tan wasn't ready to give up and rallied back to take a 5-4 lead and once again make it a close competition, before shutting the door on the tennis legend.
Tan was emotional when addressing the media after her win, admitting that having to face Williams had been an intimidating thought.
"She's a superstar. When I was young, I was watching her so many times on the TV," Tan said. "When I saw the draw, I was really scared. She's such a legend. I thought if I can win one game, two games, that would be really good for me."
This wasn't an ideal result for her first day back, but Williams appeared to take the loss well. She is turning 41 years old in September, so a few media members asked her if this was her last time at the All England Club. Williams said she is not summing up her legacy quite yet, and that when it comes to her future, she is taking it day by day.
"I don't know," Williams said. "Obviously we are in the summer now so, like I said coming into this, I'm just playing for right now and seeing how I feel. Just go from there."