Ohen you beat Serena Williams on center court in your first Wimbledon match, court 17 must seem like a quiet affair. Here, the applause comes to you in splashes rather than waves, and you can easily spot the individual voice of your trainer’s young niece shouting “Come on!” Alright! Continue!”
Coming off of Harmony Tan’s spotlight debut on Tuesday, the performance demanded of her on the outside fringes was no less grueling – and her response was no less impressive either. A 6-3, 6-4 scoreline belied the maturity and courage it took to defeat brave Sara Sorribes Tormo in a two-hour encounter that threatened to leave both drunk.
The 24 hours following his win over Williams hadn’t been easy either. There was a noticeable lack of harmony in every way after the 24-year-old pulled out of women’s doubles ahead of a scheduled first-round match alongside Tamara Korpatsch. The German player posted on Instagram that Tan pulled out via text an hour before his tee time after sustaining a thigh injury. “I am very sad, disappointed and also very angry,” she wrote, amid a flurry of emotional hashtags. “If you are broken after a 3 hour match the day before, you cannot play professional.”
On Thursday morning, Tan’s estranged partner deleted her post and replaced it with the news that the two women had “found out all the misunderstandings”, although at her post-match press conference, Tan still seemed somewhat little disconcerted by the exchange. “So, yes, she was angry, but that’s life,” said the Frenchwoman. “She texted me and apologized for posting and, you know, I don’t like drama. I’m not like that. So I didn’t respond.”
There was also instant drama on the court, with Tan losing serve in the opener before retiring immediately. Then came a long net-skimming exchange at 3-2, and a timely challenge from Sorribes Tormo to a called ball down the right side to save the next break point. But first the Spaniard’s serve and volley missed, then just her serve: a double fault finally gave Tan the break, and she clung to the resistance in the match that followed.
Sorribes Tormo, seeded 32, was the favorite in this game – she is ranked 45th in the world, against 115 for Tan. She was also on the court for less than half of her opponent, having beaten Christina McHale in about an hour. and a quarterback in its opening game. The second round remains the furthest the Spaniard has managed at Wimbledon, but she showed her mettle here last year in an epic contest against Angelique Kerber, and she evoked a similar spirit when faced with the fascinating creativity of Tan.
There were no obvious signs of fatigue after Tan’s three-hour marathon with Williams – although she took a few pills at the time of the switch in recognition of thigh pain which prevented her from competing in the doubles. Tan made the immediate break in an early fight for the second set, but a lucky net cord in the fourth game gave Sorribes Tormo an opening. The Spaniard backed up and forced herself into the game, chasing drops and volleys from Tan, and trying to regain control with her powerful forehand.
Tan needed to stay calm in the face of the onslaught, and didn’t always succeed – twice after smashing Sorribes Tormo, she showed a sudden slackness that her opponent greedily exploited. But there were other times when his touch seemed to do literal magic. The sharp backhand that took her to the advantage in Game 5 had everyone on and off the pitch looking the wrong way for the ball. She also won a point with a shot suggesting her wrists might be made of an elastic polymer rather than ordinary flesh. Sorribes Tormo wore a desperate look at his injustice.
It was one of Tan’s trademark drop shots, the ball beating the Spaniard’s racquet, which helped her on the decisive break, and it served love to set up a Saturday encounter with Britain’s Katie Boulter. It’s Tan’s first time reaching the third round of a Grand Slam, and she’s aware that if she finds herself on a show ground, the crowd will cheer for her opponent. Still, she is up for the challenge. “Katie, she’s a really good grass player,” she said. “There may be [of the] public for it, but I’m ready for it.
Korpatsch was quick to congratulate Tan. “I’m glad your leg injury is improving so quickly,” she wrote on Instagram, before adding for clarification on a second page: “…It’s not… sarcasm!”