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“I like to play tennis with everything”: On Harmony Tan's topsy-turvy week at Wimbledon
Over a 48-hour period, the 24-year-old, 115th-ranked Frenchwoman became famous in ways she wanted, and may not have wanted.
Published Jun 30, 2022
WATCH: Harmony Tan's wild week at Wimbledon begin with a win over Williams
Did Harmony Tan have a lot of people asking for her autograph before Tuesday? I can’t say. But they were waiting for her after her match on Court 17 at Wimbledon today.
The 24-year-old, 115th-ranked Frenchwoman has had a week. Over a 48-hour period, she became famous in ways she wanted, and may not have wanted.
First, the good news. Tan beat Serena Williams in a third-set tiebreaker on Centre Court, then showed she isn’t a one-win wonder by beating another, very different, but also difficult opponent, Sarah Sorribes Tormo, in two sets on Thursday. That put Tan in the third round of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time in 14 tries.
Now, the not-as-good news: In between those two singles matches, Tan texted her would-be doubles partner, Tamara Korpatsch, shortly before they were supposed to play, to tell her she was pulling out of doubles with a thigh injury. Korpatsch was something less than sympathetic.
“I didn’t deserve that,” she wrote on Instagram. “If you’re broken after a 3 [hour] match the day before, you can’t play professional. That’s my opinion.”
On Thursday morning, according to Tan, Korpatsch texted her to apologize—a “good communication,” as Tan put it, though she said she declined to answer because “I don’t like drama.” Against Sorribes-Tormo, Tan showed little signs of leg pain; afterward, she said she had taken “something to relax” her thigh.
With her doubles dust-up seemingly in the rear-view mirror, we can go back to focusing on Tan’s singles game. Her sudden fame reminds me of what happened with Barbora Krejcikova last year. Both are examples of how, when you scratch the surface of the women’s game, you can find hidden gems of creativity and shot-making variety among the rank-and-file.
Tan may never win a Grand Slam title, the way Krejcikova has, but like the Czech, she can do just about anything with a tennis ball at a moment’s notice. Serena herself acknowledged the unique difficulties that Tan presents.
“Any other opponent probably would have suited my game better,” she said.
Sorribes Tormo probably thought something similar today. Tan may have been on a smaller court, but her collection of spins and speeds was very much still in evidence. With her forehand or backhand, she can hit hard slices, side-spinning slices, and the most finely-measured of drop shots, just with a slight shift of her racquet angle. But she can also change speeds from one swing to the next, following up a floating slice with a flat drive to the opposite corner. Some players use the “squash shot”; Tan brings an entire squash-style game to the tennis court.
On Thursday, she threw in a tweener, too.
“I like to play tennis with everything,” she said, “With my hand, with everything you can do [in] tennis, and I really enjoy it when I do this tweener.”
Tan has two fine coaches in her corner these days: Nathalie Tauziat and Sam Sumyk. A one-time mentor of Victoria Azarenka and Garbiñe Muguruza, Sumyk joined forces with his fellow Frenchwoman on a part-time basis late last year.
“Harmony has a style of play that I’ve never coached,” Sumyk told Tennis Majors last week. “She has a lot of variety, she can do everything. It’s a tennis that’s all about feeling and touch.”
“The goal is to make it evolve by trying to dictate the game more.”
Tan certainly doesn’t have a No. 115 game. Her mix of shot-making style and competitive grit would be a nice addition to the Top 50, or the Top 20. On Saturday she’ll face another challenge when she plays the tournament’s new sentimental favorite, Katie Boulter, possibly back in the pressure cooker of Centre Court. Boulter beat last year’s runner-up, Karolina Pliskova, in the second round, and then tearfully dedicated the win to her grandmother, who passed away two days earlier.
“Katie, she’s a really good player on grass court,” Tan said. “There will be maybe some public for her, but I’m prepared for that, because when I play Serena, there’s a lot of public for her also. And on the big court, yeah, I will be ready for Saturday.”
After this week, she should be ready for anything.