Serena Williams loses Wimbledon thriller, discusses tennis future

Serena Williams
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Serena Williams lost in her first singles match in 364 days as 115th-ranked Frenchwoman Harmony Tan outlasted her 7-5, 1-6, 7-6 (7) in the Wimbledon first round in Williams’ longest match in a decade — 3 hours, 11 minutes.

Williams, a 40-year-old with 23 Grand Slam singles titles, did not say definitively in a press conference afterward whether she plans to continue playing competitive tennis.

Asked if it was likely her last singles match, she said, “That’s a question I can’t answer. Who knows? Who knows where I’ll pop up.”

Asked if she’s OK if this is her last memory at Wimbledon, she said, “Obviously not. You know me. Definitely not.”

Asked if there’s any part of her that wants to play the U.S. Open in two months, she said, “That being the first place I’ve won a Grand Slam [in 1999], is something that’s always super special. … There’s definitely lots of motivation to get better and to play at home.”

WIMBLEDON DRAWS: Women | Men

Williams followed a rusty first set with a more Serena-like second set, which included a marathon 30-point second game.

She squandered a third-set break of serve, failing to serve out the match. In the 10-point super tiebreak, she won the first four points, then lost the next four points. Tan went up a mini break at 8-6 in the tiebreak, then served it out.

“If you’re playing week in, week out, or even every three weeks, every four weeks, there’s a little bit more match toughness,” Williams said. “You’ve got to think if I were playing matches, I wouldn’t miss some of those points, or this match.”

It was Williams’ first three-hour match since her 2012 French Open first-round loss to another Frenchwoman, Virginie Razzano (which was 3:03). Those are her lone two defeats in completed first-round matches in her Grand Slam career.

“It definitely makes me want to hit the practice courts because … you’re playing not bad, and you’re so close,” Williams said. “It’s actually kind of like, OK, Serena, you can do this if you want.”

Before the tournament, Williams said she was largely motivated to take a wild card into Wimbledon by what happened last year at the All England Club. Last June 29, she tore a hamstring in a first-round match and withdrew, leaving her future in tennis in the air.

“It was always something since the match ended that was always on my mind,” she said Saturday. “So it was a tremendous amount of motivation for that.”

Also Tuesday, Coco Gauff rallied past Romanian Elena-Gabriela Ruse 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 in her first major match since her French Open runner-up result.

Gauff, ranked a career-high No. 12, made the fourth round in her two previous Wimbledon appearances, including her breakthrough Coco Mania run at age 15 in 2019.

She celebrated her high school graduation last month in Paris and is the youngest player in the women’s draw of 128 at Wimbledon. She is the youngest player in the WTA top 140.

“I feel like I’m a lot more relaxed than when I was considered the sensation,” Gauff said before the tournament. “It felt like everybody wanted the results to happen now, now, now. I feel like I learned so much not to put pressure on now, now, now. This time around, even though I’m considered a favorite, I don’t feel like it as much as I did when I was 15 or even 16. … I felt like I was a little bit delusional in my head about how much people wanted me to win, whereas now I feel like if it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.”

Gauff next gets Romanian Mihaela Buzarnescu, who at 34 is nearly twice her age.

Poland’s Iga Swiatek, who defeated Gauff in the French Open final, dispatched Croatian Jana Fett 6-0, 6-3 to run her win streak to 36 matches, the longest in women’s tennis in 25 years.

Swiatek earned her 17th bagel set this year in 48 matches, matching Steffi Graf‘s number through her Wimbledon first-round match (41 matches) in her 1988 Golden Slam year.

If Swiatek wins her next match, she will tie the longest women’s streak since Graf won 66 in a row in 1989-90.

Rafael Nadal, halfway to a calendar Grand Slam, beat Argentine Francisco Cerundolo 6-4, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 in his first Wimbledon match since 2019.

With 2021 Wimbledon runner-up Matteo Berrettini‘s withdrawal Tuesday, Nadal is the lone player in his half of the draw who has made a Wimbledon final.

American serve-and-volleyer Maxime Cressy took out No. 6 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-7 (5), 6-4, 7-6 (9), 7-6 (5). Auger-Aliassime was the other top-10 seed in Nadal’s quarter.

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In a tie, Wendy Holdener puts to rest a remarkable stat in Alpine skiing

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Swiss Wendy Holdener ended one of the most remarkable victory droughts in sports by tying for the win with Swede Anna Swenn Larsson in a World Cup slalom in Killington, Vermont, on Sunday.

Holdener, after 15 second-place finishes and 15 third-place finishes in her career, stood on the top step of a World Cup slalom podium for the first time. She shared it with Swenn Larsson, who had six World Cup slalom podiums before Sunday and also earned her first win.

They beat Austrian Katharina Truppe by .22 of a second combining times from two runs.

ALPINE SKIING: Full Results | Broadcast Schedule

Holdener, 29, previously won three World Cups in other disciplines, plus two world championships in the combined and Olympic and world titles in the team event.

“To be tied first when I came into the finish was such a relief,” Holdener said while shoulder to shoulder with Swenn Larsson. “On the end, it’s perfect, because now we can share our first win together.”

Mikaela Shiffrin had the best first-run time but lost her lead midway through the second run and finished fifth. Shiffrin, who won the first two slaloms this season last weekend, was bidding for a 50th World Cup slalom victory and a sixth win in six slaloms in Killington.

“I fought. I think some spots I got a little bit off my timing, but I was pushing, and that’s slalom,” she said before turning her attention to Holdener and Swenn Larsson. “It’s a pretty special day, actually.”

The women’s Alpine skiing World Cup moves next weekend to Lake Louise, Alberta, with two downhills and a super-G.

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Injured Ilia Malinin wins Grand Prix Finland, qualifies for Grand Prix Final

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Ilia Malinin, competing “a little bit injured” this week, still won Grand Prix Finland and goes into the Grand Prix Final in two weeks as the world’s top-ranked male singles skater.

Malinin, who was second after Friday’s short program, landed four clean quadruple jumps in Saturday’s free skate to overtake Frenchman Kevin Aymoz.

Malinin, who landed a quad flip in competition for the first time, according to SkatingScores.com, also attempted a quad Axel to open his program, but spun out of the landing and put his hand down on the ice.

Malinin also won his previous two starts this season in come-from-behind fashion. The 17-year-old world junior champion became the first skater to land a clean, fully rotated quad Axel in September, then did it again in October at Skate America, where he posted the world’s top overall score this season.

Next, Malinin can become the second-youngest man to win the Grand Prix Final after Russian Yevgeny Plushenko. His biggest competition is likely to be world champion Shoma Uno of Japan, who like Malinin won both of his Grand Prix starts this fall. Malinin and Uno have not gone head-to-head this season.

Grand Prix Finland highlights air on NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET.

FIGURE SKATING: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Earlier, Japan’s Mai Mihara overtook world silver medalist Loena Hendrickx of Belgium to become the only woman to win both of her Grand Prix starts this season. Mihara prevailed by .23 of a point. The top three women this season by best total score are Japanese, led by a junior skater, 14-year-old Mao Shimada, who isn’t Olympic age-eligible until 2030.

Mihara and Hendrickx qualified for the Grand Prix Final, joining world champion Kaori Sakamoto and Rinka Watanabe, both of Japan, South Korean Yelim Kim and American Isabeau Levito, the world junior champion.

Italians Rebecca Ghilardi and Filippo Ambrosini won both pairs’ programs and qualified for their first Grand Prix Final.

Japan’s Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara and Americans Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier headline the Final. Both pairs won each of their Grand Prix starts earlier this fall. The Japanese have the world’s two best scores this season. The Americans are reigning world champions.

At least one Russian or Chinese pair made every Grand Prix Final podium — usually pairs from both countries — but neither nation competed in pairs this Grand Prix season. All Russian skaters are banned due to the war in Ukraine. China’s lone entry on the Grand Prix across all disciplines was an ice dance couple.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier improved on their world-leading score for this season in winning the ice dance by 17.03 points over Americans Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker. Both couples qualified for the Grand Prix Final in the absence of all three Olympic medalists this fall.

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