Nadal had not played Wimbledon since 2019, while Serena had not played tennis for a year after getting injured in her first round match on Centre Court last year.
As a result, the participation of the two tennis greats was exciting for Tennis fans and Wimbledon organisers. The All-England Tennis Club received criticism for its decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players after their countries invaded Ukraine.
Wimbledon also had to deal with the absence of its greatest champion, Roger Federer, which showed why people were excited to see Nadal and Serena in the draw.
Going into the tournament, there were doubts over both players’ fitness, but they assured fans they were ready to compete.
Queen Serena is almost done
Serena even hinted that she was there to win the title, even though she had not played a singles tennis match in over a year.
However, it appears the end is near for Serena after losing her opening round match. The draw was kind to the 23-time major winner even though she no longer has ranking points.
Still, Serena could not get past Harmony Tan in the first round. The Frenchwoman took a tight first set, 7-5, before Serena responded with a 6-1 win in the second set. The third set looked to be in Serena’s favour, but she could not serve it out at 5-4, allowing Tan to break.
Both players held serves in their next service game to take the match to a tiebreak. Serena appeared to be cruising when she took a 4-0 lead, but Tan regrouped to take the tiebreak and the match 10-8.
It was a moment of delight for the 24-year-old Frenchwoman in her first main draw at Wimbledon. However, for Serena, her latest loss raises the question of how much she still has left in her tank.
While there may be suggestions that Serena blew it, that was not the case. It was clear that she was tired and spent in the third set, which suggests the end may be in sight for the American.
In fairness, Serena deserves credit for how she fought till the end, considering it was her first singles match in over a year.
However, it is still hard to see her competing against the best tennis players in the world. Han deserved her victory, but the Frenchwoman was not spectacular, either.
And that shows why Serena may find it challenging to make a deep run in tournaments again. She made a lot of unforced errors and was involved in many rallies, which Han controlled.
There is no way Serena will win matches by playing like this, considering her age and the physical demands of her game.
At this age, she needs to keep the points shorter and reduce her unforced errors. She did not do either yesterday, and that may just be the pointer that says the Greatest Women’s Tennis player of all time is done playing top-level tennis.
No problem for Nadal
While Serena crashed out, Nadal had no such problems, although he also had his problems.
Nadal’s situation coming into the tournament is different to that of Serena, as he just won his 22nd grand slam title with a 14th crown at Roland Garros.
Still, there were doubts over which Nadal would show up because of his lingering foot problem. However, he showed the mental and physical resilience that fans know him for by knocking out Francisco Cerundolo in four sets.
It was not an easy victory for Nadal, who had to wait until the tenth game of the first set before breaking Cerundolo’s serve for a 6-4 win.
The second set was a little bit less stressful, with Nadal taking it 6-3. However, the third set was a strange one as Nadal gave away a break before Cerundolo broke again to take it 6-3.
The fourth set followed a similar pattern as the Argentine broke Nadal’s serve, but the 22-time grand slam champion showed his experience by breaking twice and sealing the match, 6-4, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4.
While Nadal also faced the same problems Serena faced, Nadal never got tired and was decisive on the big points. The contrasting performances of both tennis greats show that one may be done while the other is not ready to quit yet.