Watched by her family in the stands, Williams lost a tight first set before tying in Game Two on Center Court, the site of seven of her 23 Grand Slam titles.
She was separated in the third set, but Tan showed her resilience by fighting back to take a thrilling final set in a tense break in the tie.
“When I saw the draw, I was really scared,” Tan said after the match. “It’s Serena Williams – she’s a legend. I was like, ‘Oh my God, how can I play?’ “And if I can win one or two matches, that’s really good for me.”
She did more than that comfortably in her first Wimbledon and ninth match of a Grand Slam.
Momentum shifted among the players over the course of the three-hour, 10-minute match—first in favor of Tan as she spun through the first set, then toward Williams as she advanced into the second.
It looked as if the 40-year-old Williams, who is playing her first singles match since Wimbledon last year, would win the decider as she served to win.
But the memorable comeback was not to be. Tan came back to break at 5-5, and despite failing to convert the match point at 6-5, she made no mistake when she had a second chance in the tiebreak.
“For my first time at Wimbledon – it’s great. Just awesome,” she said, struggling to find the words to capture her feelings.
Williams played her first competitive match in nearly a year at Eastbourne last week, and teamed up with Anas Jaber in the doubles event. The pair reached the semi-finals, but had to withdraw after Jaber injured his knee.
More to follow…
“Food lover. Unapologetic alcohol guru. Passionate internet geek. Hardcore analyst. Gamer.”