Serena Williams and his legendary status always ensure entertainment. It doesn’t matter that the dust on his racket lasts a year, that extra-sports matters dominate the spotlight on his part or that the pace of the circuit and the passage of time threaten to pass him by on the right. The mystique that the American provokes on the Central Court of Wimbledon 2022 ensures classics like the one we have lived until a few minutes ago, a classic in which the protagonist, this time, was another: it is about Harmony Tan, who had the pleasure of taking off her shoes and dancing barefoot in a house that Serena once owned. Dancing on the grass and with a repertoire of unorthodox blows, her Numantine resistance cracked the blows of a desperate Williams, who gave in after leaving every last drop of blood in an epic encounter (7-5, 1-6, 7-6(7)).
In the first set, it seemed that it was going to be Serena Williams who could put land in between. She went out with all the American, as if time had not passed by her and her last professional meeting had taken place in this same place, but a year ago. The strength of the youngest of the Williams shattered Tan’s tennis, so she armed herself with patience and a variety of shots to weather the storm. And Serena, aware that her level could fluctuate in the absence of competitive matches, began to be filled with unforced errors until she delivered an incredibly close first set. It seemed, in fact, that her gas tank had reached there.
But the great champions do not give up without leaving every last drop of sweat. With all the positive inertia in her favor, Tan found herself with a Serena who decided to put on her overalls and increase her intensity until she became a true competitive beast. The game that became the turning point was the second game of the second set: it lasted up to twelve deuces and ended with a hurricane cry from the American, who broke to put on track a misleading second set: the 6-1 score did not reflects the 50 minutes of fight without quarter that were fought on the Central Court. Everything was prepared for a third set of real heart attack, with two totally opposing styles of play and the weight of history knocking on the door.
DRAMA UNTIL THE LAST SECOND
It was Serena who first knocked on the door, starting the deciding set with a break that seemed key. However, Harmony never let her arms go down and set out to take advantage of Williams’ intensity slumps, trying to entangle her in a spider web that she wove with precision. Cut rights, short angles, drops and, in general, a repertoire of tricks that ended up driving Serena to despair, prey to several long exchanges that undermined her confidence. She so she recovered the break and looked closely at victory when she broke him at 4-4 and moved up to 30-15 in the subsequent game. There, however, the nerves of seeing the victory so closely and the epic of the multi-time Grand Slam champion lengthened the match before the fury unleashed on Center Court.
Harmony got a chance again. 6-5, 30-40 and the opportunity to play an exchange of the kind she likes, with alternatives from the bottom. Perhaps in other circumstances she would have exhausted Serena, but her invitation to the American resulted in a devastating attack complete with a final scream. It’s bad business to wait and give all the initiative to someone whose hand doesn’t shake. Match ball saved, the supertiebreak on the horizon as the final challenge for both.
The first four points went to Serena, displaying a tremendous level of aggressiveness, but unsustainable throughout such a long sudden death. Things were going in gusts, with a Tan who would counterattack and take the lead on several occasions, but who was always met with one more genius from Williams… until it was she who decided to take action, with a crosscourt backhand that He opened the court and a perfect down the line right to make it 8-6. The finish line was very close to her, almost within reach of her hand, and she was able to defend almost the unspeakable against the nerves of a Serena who sought to find the balance between aggressiveness and desperation.
In the last points what reigned was desperation. The perplexity before the Numantine wall that Tan became, who insisted so much that, now yes, he managed to force several errors from the racket of his rival. The 10-7 final super tiebreak was the last act of a pure epic match, another one in a Grand Slam that has started with long games and with favorites showing themselves to be vulnerable and human. Serena did not start with that poster, but she once again showed us that her claw and her heart will remain intact regardless of her level. Her return to tennis had a bitter farewell, but the result is the least of it: Serena Williams is back. And tennis will always appreciate it.