Serena Williams’ return to Wimbledon was packed with drama but was short-lived. After a 52-week hiatus, she found herself opposite Frenchwoman Harmony Tan at her old Centre Court stomping ground. The seven-time champion came unstuck in three absorbing sets, finding it difficult to settle into a rhythm. Ranked 115, the largely unknown Tan was in her elements, letting rip on Serena her heady mix of shots, slices and spins. As the match ebbed and flowed, the great Williams was often in a position to march ahead, but the French player kept reeling her back, eventually edging the first-round encounter 7-5, 1-6, 7-6 (10-7). While Tan rolls into the next round, questions abound on Williams’ future.

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The 40-year-old has been an intermittent presence on tour since surviving life-threatening childbirth back in 2017, and one wonders the impact this defeat will have on Serena. Speaking to the BBC in its aftermath, the American seemed to reconcile well with her loss:

“Today I gave all I could do. Maybe tomorrow I could have gave more. Maybe a week ago I could have gave more. But today was what I could do. At some point you have to be able to be OK with that. And that’s all I can do,” quotes the Guardian.

When asked if she would return to SW19 next year, Serena was coy in response:

“That’s a question I can’t answer. Like, I don’t know. Who knows? Who knows where I’ll pop up.”

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In the lead-up to her match, Serena kept insisting that she wasn’t sure of her future in the sport, giving the kind of vibes that hint at an exit. But with 23 Grand Slams to her name, she will perhaps summon one final burst to level the only record that presently eludes her: Margaret Court’s haul of 24 Grand Slams.

With a home Grand Slam on the horizon, she did not rule out the possibility of one final dance under the New York sky:

“When you’re at home, especially in New York, and the US Open, that being the first place I’ve won a Grand Slam, is something that’s always super special. There’s definitely lots of motivation to get better and to play at home,” quotes Planet Sport.

While retirement inches closer, it would be uncharacteristic to expect Serena to walk gently into the good night!