CONCORD — She admits to feeling “a little” more confident, people are slightly more apt to recognize her on the street, and those player reps who didn’t know Harmony Tan from a harmonica have been phoning with some regularity. All because of what happened that day at Wimbledon.
Otherwise, life goes on as normal says the ever-cheerful Tan, the Parisian-born 24-year-old who played on the lush grass of the All England Lawn and Tennis Club for the first time on June 28 and sent the mighty Serena Williams skittering out of SW19.
One minute you’re just a kid, never ranked higher than 90th by the WTA, looking to plant a firm foot in the game after 10 years on the pro circuit. A minute later — or, in this case, three sets, 3 hours and 11 minutes later — you’ve made first-round fodder of the most famous of the Sisters Sledgehammer.
“When I saw the ball . . . when I saw she hit it into the the net,” said Tan, recalling the final sequence in her 10-7 super-tiebreak win over Williams, “I didn’t believe it . . . ”
A fraction of a second later, Tan’s eye caught everyone in her box, including mom Lizqueen and coach Nathalie Tauziat, leaping and high-fiving and making merrier than a bunch of the Queen’s Guard rushing through the door of a London pub after an eight-hour shift outside Buckingham Palace.
THAT is when she knew.
“Ohhhhh . . .,” she recalled again here on Monday morning, “. . . I won!”
Tan is here this week, tuning up for her stop next month at the US Open, as part of the third annual Thoreau Tennis Open on the expansive, manicured grounds of the Thoreau Club. Under the watch of tournament boss Massimo Policastro, the Thoreau tennis director since 2017, Tan and a few dozen other women from around the world will be looking to juice up their ranking in the WTA 125 tournament, one of only two staged this year in the US.
Main draw matches begin on Tuesday, both in singles and doubles, and play will continue each day, culminating with the quarterfinals on Friday, semis on Saturday and then championship Sunday (doubles at noon; singles at 3 p.m.). The club’s stands can accommodate upward of 600 spectators.
Ranked No. 112 by the WTA, Tan is back in action for the first time since Wimbledon. Ultimately bounced in Round 4, Tan was scheduled to report immediately to a tournament in Liepaja, on the west coast of Latvia, only to be sidelined with a bout of COVID-19.
“Sick for 10 days, and sooooo tired,” she recalled, following her practice session here Monday morning. “Just sleep and rest.”
Tan finally returned to practice in Paris toward the end of July, then visited with her coach, Tauziat, in Biarritz, the glamorous seaside town on the southwest tip of France.
“Not for tennis, but for surfing,” said Tan, her face lighting up over her other athletic passion. “Biarritz has some great waves.”
Surfing, along with tennis and judo and piano playing, were among the many endeavors that Harmony and her brother Maxime took up as grade schoolers. Their parents, Lizqueen (from Vietnam) and Chai-Se (from Cambodia), met in France after emigrating from their respective war-torn countries and wanted their kids to be active.
Maxime, said Harmony, stopped playing tennis around age 16 and has a career in the financial world. He was among those hootin’ and hollerin’ in her box when she rubbed out Williams, 7-5, 1-6, 7-6 (10-7).
After her surprise knockout of Williams, who was just back on the court after a one-year layoff, Tan collected wins over Sara Sorribes Tormo and Katie Boulter, the latter a Brit who is here as part of the Thoreau field. She ultimately fell to Amanda Anisimova.
Overall, it was a Wimbledon in which Tan for the first time played on natural grass, first stood on Centre Court, and for the first time made it to week No. 2 in a Grand Slam event.
“My first serves, I need to land a higher percentage of those,” said Tan, summing up where she feels her overall game needs to improve. “And I have to be more aggressive.”
No matter where her career tracks from here, the young woman from Paris will always have . . . London, 2022. For that brief moment, her record in the famed Championships stood at 1-0, while Williams was 98-13.
“A day or two before, during practice, someone said to me, ‘Oh, you’re playing Serena,’” said Tan, recalling her initial shock. “And I said, ‘What?! She’s playing against me?!’”
Had she been able to filch a game or two from Williams, that would have been great, Tan recalled thinking before the match.
“I mean, she’s a legend, right?” she said. “She has 23 Grand Slam titles . . . amazing. You play Serena, that’s like playing Roger Federer. So, I was, ‘Ohhhhhhhhh.’”
Williams, 40, immediately moved ahead, 4-0, in the super-tiebreak.
“Oh, it will be hard to win this match now,” Tan recalled thinking at that moment.
What an exhausted Tan told herself, and it was the thought that kept her in the battle, was that Williams also was exhausted. Legend or not on the other side of the net, there was no choice but to keep hitting, and soon it was back to 4-4.
“So from 4-0 down to 4-all,” she said, giggling over the recollection. “And I said to myself, ‘OK, it’s my destiny. I can win this match!’ And I won.”
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.