Harmony Tan of France earned a Centre Court win in her Wimbledon main-draw debut, topping seven-time champion Serena Williams of the United States 7-5, 1-6, 7-6 in an enthralling first-round clash on Tuesday night.
In the longest match of the tournament thus far, Tan twice came back from a break down in the third set to notch just the third Grand Slam main-draw win of her career. Tan eliminated 23-time Grand Slam champion Williams after 3 hours and 11 minutes of gripping play.
"I feel really tired now, but really happy," Tan said afterward. "I play every ball like just, put some slice, some change, some variety on the game, and it works today.
"It's a dream because, you know, I saw Serena on the TV when I was young. My coach, [1998 Wimbledon runner-up] Nathalie Tauziat, played her 20 years ago. So, yeah, it's a big generation. She's a legend."
A legend returns: Former World No.1 Williams made her return to singles play after a year's absence. Williams' most recent singles match took place one year ago on the very same court, where she suffered an ankle injury against Aliaksandra Sasnovich in the Wimbledon first round.
On Tuesday, Williams saved a match point at 6-5 in the final set before battling into the 10-point match-tiebreak. However, Tan charged back from a 4-0 deficit in that breaker to earn her first grass-court match-win at tour level.
"It was definitely a very long battle and fight," Williams said in her post-match press conference. "It's definitely better than last year, that's a start.
"I think physically I did pretty good. ... I feel like in just those key points, winning some of those points, is always something mentally that you have to have, that you kind of need. I did pretty good on maybe one or two of 'em, but obviously not enough.
"Today I gave all I could do, you know, today. 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. And that's all I can do."
Williams, 40, suffered only her third first-round loss at a Grand Slam event in her legendary career. Her win-loss record at Wimbledon stands at a staggering 98-14.
Match moments: Williams rebounded from 0-2 to 4-2 in the opening set, but Tan used crafty play to pull her way back into the opener. Tan finished off a series of slices with a forehand winner to break for 6-5, and a forehand pass in the next game gave her the one-set lead.
In the second set, Williams prevailed on her seventh break point of a grueling 19-minute game to lead 2-0. Williams fended off four break points in the next game to consolidate for 3-0, then found sterling service returns from there to sweep through the rest of that set.
After a third-set exchange of breaks, Williams notched a gutsy break for 5-4. However, Tan passed Williams to break back for 5-5, and Tan held her first match point at 6-5. Williams swatted that chance away with a putaway winner, and the pair moved into the match-tiebreak.
Booming groundstrokes gave Williams a 4-0 lead in the breaker, but Tan leveled the tussle to reach 6-6. A forehand winner gave Tan a key 8-6 lead, and she earned a second match point at 9-7 after a Williams forehand miscue. Tan converted that chance and celebrated her first Wimbledon win.
Next up: World No.115 Tan will take on No.32 seed Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain in the second round. Sorribes Tormo breezed past American qualifier Christina McHale 6-2, 6-1 earlier on Tuesday.
Andreescu, Zheng Qinwen grab first-round wins
Fresh off her first grass-court final in Bad Homburg, No.56 Bianca Andreescu rolled to a 6-1, 6-3 win over qualifier Emina Bektas. The victory is Andreescu's first main draw win of her career at Wimbledon.
The 2019 US Open champion hit 28 winners to just nine unforced errors in a clinical 55-minute win, and will face 17th seed Elena Rybakina in the second round. Rybakina advanced with a 7-6(2), 7-5 opening win over lucky loser CoCo Vandeweghe.
Also on Tuesday, Zheng Qinwen clinched her first Wimbledon match-win. The Chinese teenager, who was the only player to take a set off of Iga Swiatek at 2022 Roland Garros, knocked out 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens 7-6(1), 7-5 in 1 hour and 43 minutes.