Wimbledon | Tan trounces Boulter to meet Anisimova in Last 16

24-year old Harmony Tan has a formula for grass that befuddles her opponents, as Britain’s Katie Boulter discovered to her cost on No 2 Court on Saturday morning, when the Frenchwoman dismissed her 6-1 6-1 in just 51 minutes to set up a Last 16 meeting with Amanda Anisimova, who upset Coco Gauff on Centre Court, 6-7(4) 6-2 6-1.

I think she don't like my game. I like to play tennis with this tweener, with my hands, with everything you can do on tennis. Harmony Tan

“I don’t think I believe it yet,” Wimbledon debutante Tan told the crowd. “If I sleep a little bit tonight, maybe I will believe it tomorrow.

“Today was really good tennis, although I don’t know why. It’s amazing. I like grass. And I like to play with slice and volley, so I’m really happy.

“It was very emotional after the first round against Serena, and now I’m just playing match by match.”

Tan had flummoxed Serena Williams in round 1, who used all her mighty skills to try to come up with a way to get past the World No 90 but came up short, and lost, 7-5 1-6 7-6[7], after 3 hours and 10 minutes, the longest match at the tournament.

Then Tan dispatched Sara Sorribes Tormo, the No 32 seed from Spain, 6-3 6-4, before taking on Boulter, the British No 3, against whom she played the shortest match of The Championships.

Coached by Nathalie Tauziat and Sam Sumyk, Tan turned pro in 2012 and has won 8 singles titles and one doubles title on the ITF Women’s Circuit.

Born in Paris, Tan’s parents are from Vietnam and Cambodia, and she started playing tennis with brother at the age of 4 alongside a slew of activities that also included dancing and judo.

“I was at school,” she said. “I was on the escalator, and I fell down two floors. I didn’t know what was happening – everybody was there all around me. The teachers, the police, the ambulance.

“The first thing I said was, ‘Can I play tennis again?’ This moment was when I realised I wanted to play tennis in my life.”

Her mother is a financial journalist and her father an engineer, and she loves to play piano and to go surfing, going to Biarritz every summer, and often joined by Tauziat.

Katie Boulter tried everything she could to solve the Harmony Tan challenge but fell in just 51 minutes

© Sebastien Bozon/AFP via Getty Images

Boulter scored a stunning win over Czech Karolina Pliskova, the 6th seed who was last year’s finalist, after impressively beating another Frenchwoman, Clara Burel, in her opener, but the 25-year old had no answers against the talented Tan.

There was some consternation that the British wild-card, one of the biggest sports stories on Thursday, was scheduled against the Williams conqueror for Court 2, and not on Centre or No 1 Court, but organisers clearly felt the World No 118’s dream week at the All England Club was about to come to an end against the tricky Tan, who delivered a dominant display.

It did not start well for Boulter, who dropped her serve after breaking a string on a routine forehand, while a let-cord on Tan’s volley clipped the net for a winner before the Brit mis-judged a lob that landed well inside the baseline.

From there on, Boulter struggled to find any kind of rhythm, spraying her shots as Tan’s confidence and deft strokes either found their marks or resulted in a miscue from her opponent.

From the get-go, Tan was sublime, and missed very little, slicing and dicing with aplomb, the same way she had outplayed Williams, and making Boulter feel uncomfortable by varying her spin and depth, which unsettled the Brit.

It was a masterclass of creative, unusual tennis, with Tan pulling off the first ‘tweener’ of the match on the 3rd point, and, later, sealing the second-set double break with another.

In between, there were absurd side-spins that left Boulter flailing, sneak attacks to the net whenever possible, and some terrific passing shots on the run.

“I think she don’t like my game,” Tan said, with a smile later. “I like to play tennis with this tweener, with my hands, with everything you can do on tennis.”

Tan spent her junior career as an outsider from the French Tennis Federation because of her style of tennis, but Tauziat, the 1998 Wimbledon finalist and a creative player herself, recognised the talent when she first saw her as a 17-year old.

“When I was young, they told me that I cannot be really good player with this game, so it was really tough for me,” Tan recalled. “I didn’t have some help and, financially, it was really hard.

“I didn’t play juniors because I didn’t have money to play juniors, and I went straight to the ITF tournaments.

“But there is one person who believed in me. It was Nathalie Tauziat when I was 18, and we work on this game. I think it works today.”

Last November, Tan and Tauziat brought in Sam Sumyk, the former coach of Garbiñe Muguruza, to instil a more aggressive mindset.

Amanda Anisimova pulled off an impressive come-back to upset Coco Gauff on Centre Court on Saturday

© Sebastien Bozon/AFP via Getty Images

Boulter had come into this match having banked 9 wins on grass since coming back from a 3 month break with a foot injury but, on a breezy No 2 Court, she just never got going.

Tan was immediately seeing the ball well, drilling away with her signature steady pace, showing great hands to dart out into a 3-0 lead, and Boulter had to fend off another break point just to get herself on the scoreboard.

She could not find her attacking game, though, which had worked to such effect, twice, against Pliskova, and Tan brought up 2 set points with her 2nd ace of the match, then fired down her 3rd to seal it.

Boulter found herself in trouble again at the start of the second, as Tan snatched a quick-fire break to love, and the Brit’s fearlessness evaporated, replaced by uncharacteristic hesitancy.

A double-fault on match point said it all, while Tan was utterly comfortable, deploying her signature slice and even a ‘tweener’ to unanswerable effect.

Perhaps the burdens of this week had mentally exhausted Boulter, after the death of her beloved maternal grandmother on Tuesday, but this day truly belonged to Tan, the woman who had never played a main draw match here before this week, and is looking thoroughly at home at Wimbledon 2022.

“I’m just happy to be in the second week,” Tan said later. “For me, it was impossible to beat Serena in the first round. I don’t believe it.

“Today was a great match for me because Katie normally plays really good on grass. I think it was really hard for her because she played at home. It was our first third round, I think, for both. I was really cool today.”

Coco Gauff won the first set breaker but was then outplayed by Amanda Anisimova

© Sebastien Bozon/AFP via Getty Images

Later, her next opponent, Anisimova, seeded 20, won the battle of the young Americans when she recovered from a slow start to put out Gauff, the No 11 seed, after 2 hours and 7 minutes.

At 20-years of age, Anisimova is 2 years Gauff’s senior, but the 18-year old got off to the quicker start, winning the first 3 games, before being levelled at 3-3, and a tiebreak was needed to resolve the opener.

When Gauff served a double-fault in the breaker, she trailed 1-4, but then reeled off 6 points in a row to win it 7-4.

Any hopes of running way with the match, though, were quickly dispelled when Anisimova dominated the second, before running away with the decider.

“It’s my first time playing on Centre Court,” Anisimova said in her on-court interview. “It’s the most special day, I think, of my career.

“It’s just a huge privilege to play on this court, playing Coco. She’s an amazing player and just got to the finals of a Grand Slam.

“Before the match, I was just trying to prepare myself to soak in this moment, whether I win or lose. Winning today is just so special.

“I think the worst thing for a tennis player is to lose 7-6 in the first set. It’s really important to just bounce back and give everything I have.

“It was very easy to do, especially on this court, even though it was extremely exhausting.”

Anisimova broke Gauff’s serve 3 times in the second set, and twice in the third, to complete her come-back win, and although the nerves were apparent in the biggest match between the two compatriots so far, Anisimova found a winning strategy and stuck to it, breaking down Gauff’s forehand, and finishing with twice as many unforced errors as Gauff did, but also crucially striking 10 more winners.

It will be fascinating to see how Anisimova and Tan will cope with each other.



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