Serena Williams has admitted her lack of match practice came back to bite her after a shock first-round loss at Wimbledon on Tuesday.
The 23-time grand slam champion was shocked by little-known Frenchwoman Harmony Tan, a 24-year-old ranked 113th in the world.
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Tan was making her main-draw debut at Wimbledon on Tuesday, while Williams has been coming to the All England Club since 1998 when her opponent was still a baby.
But you wouldn't have known it from the contest as Tan rose to the occasion, beating the 40-year-old Williams 7-5 1-6 7-6 (10-7).
On the verge of tears in her on-court interview, Tan said :"I don't know what to say. I have watched so many times on TV. For my first Wimbledon it is 'wow', just 'wow'.
"When I saw the draw I was really scared - Serena, she's a legend. I was like, 'oh my God! How can I play? I can win maybe one or two games."
As for Serena, the American champion admitted her lack of conditioning played a factor after the three-hour battle.
Serena only returned to the WTA tour last week in Eastbourne after 12 months on the sidelines with a hamstring injury she suffered in the first round at Wimbledon last year.
Even then she didn't play singles, instead teaming up with Ons Jabeur for two doubles matches before her partner had to withdraw with injury.
“Physically I was fine, the last couple of points I was starting to feel it," Williams said in her post-match press conference after squandering a 4-0 lead in the final set super tiebreak.
“I didn’t practice for a three hour match, so…”
Unfortunately for Serena she couldn't finish the job as Tan proved the stronger over the final few points.
“It’s definitely better than last year,” Williams said in regards to her injury retirement in 2021. “That's a start.”
Asked whether this might have been her last match, Williams replied: “That’s a question I can’t answer. I don’t know. ... Who knows? Who knows where I’ll pop up?”
— Andrew Jerell Jones, Luke 1:37 (IG:twdbk3) (@sluggahjells) June 28, 2022
Serena Williams still one short of Margaret Court record
The loss leaves Serena still one grand slam title short of matching Margaret Court's record of 24 major titles, and turning 41 in September, she is running out of opportunities.
Serena has spent more than 300 weeks ranked No.1 in the world, but is currently down at 1204 after her long absence.
“If you’re playing week in, week out, or even every three weeks, every four weeks, there’s a little bit more match toughness,” she said.
“But with that being said, I felt like I played pretty OK on some of ‘em. Not all of ’em. Maybe some key ones I definitely could have played better.
"You've got to think if I were playing matches, I wouldn’t miss some of those points.”
Next for Tan is a second-round match against 32nd seed Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain. Sorribes Tormo advanced by defeating American qualifier Christina McHale 6-2, 6-1.
Earlier on Tuesday, World No.1 Iga Swiatek extended her winning streak to 36 matches by beating Croatian qualifier Jana Fett 6-0, 6-3.
Others advancing in the women’s draw included No.11 Coco Gauff, 2021 French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova and 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu.
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