'Motivated' Serena brushes off retirement talk

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Serena Williams brushed off any talk of retirement on Tuesday by insisting she is "motivated" to play at the US Open later this year despite a shattering Wimbledon defeat.

"The US Open was the place where I won my first Slam, it's super special. There's definitely a lot of motivation to get better and play at home," the 40-year-old American said.

Williams was speaking after losing in her first singles match for a year when she went down 7-5, 1-6,7-6(7) to unseeded Harmony Tan in the opening round of Wimbledon.

The 23-time major winner, who debuted at the All England Club in 1998, refused to speculate on whether or not she will be back at Wimbledon next year.

"I am just playing for right now. I see how I feel and go from there," she said. "Who knows where I will pop up."

Williams looked rusty early in Centre Court's evening match, and was broken in her first service game.

Far below her imperious best and apparently lacking fitness, the American bounced back, breaking in the fourth game to level at 2-2, buoyed by a supportive crowd.

The pair swapped further breaks but the 24-year-old Tan, ranked 115th in the world, broke again in the 11th game and held her nerve to close out the set 7-5.

Williams broke after a mammoth second game of the second set and went on to level the match 6-1.

The American was first to break in the decider but Tan leveled at 3-3.

Williams broke again in the ninth game, throwing her arms into the air in jubilation but faltered as she served for the match.

She faced a match point on her own serve in the 12th game but saved it with a forehand volley, taking the contest into a third-set tie break.

Williams stepped up a gear, winning the first four points as the match, under the Wimbledon roof, ticked past three hours.

But still her French opponent was not down and out, winning the next five points to edge ahead.

Williams, looking out of breath, could not find inspiration, netting when facing a second match point.

'So emotional'

She finished with 61 winners but 54 unforced errors in the three-hour, 11-minute evening match.

"I'm so emotional now," said Tan. "She's a superstar. When I was young, I was watching her so many times on the TV.

"When I saw the draw, I was really scared. She's such a legend. I thought if I can win one game, two games, that would be really good for me."

Twelve months ago, Williams quit her Wimbledon first-round match in tears after suffering an injury and she had not played singles tennis since until Tuesday.

Doubts had been growing about whether the former world No 1-who has slumped to 1,204th in the rankings after her period of inaction-would return to the sport.

But she warmed up for Wimbledon by teaming with Ons Jabeur in the doubles at Eastbourne last week.

Williams won the last of her seven Wimbledon singles titles six years ago but reached the final in 2018 and 2019.

The American, who was given a wild card for this year's tournament, remains stuck on 23 Grand Slam singles titles-agonizingly one short of Margaret Court's all-time record.

With her older sister, Venus, jumping out of a guest box seat at Centre Court to celebrate the best points, Serena came desperately close to pulling out a victory.

This is one indication of how things were at the get-go: Of Tan's first 11 points, only one came via a winner she produced. Others came via errors by Williams, either forced or unforced.

While Williams-who wore two pieces of black tape on her right cheek; the reason was not immediately clear-recovered from dropping the opening two games to lead 4-2, she reversed course again and allowed Tan to quickly climb back into that set with her mix of spins and slices.

When Tan pulled even at 4-all by striking a down-the-line backhand winner, she celebrated with a yell; that shot was so good that even Williams felt compelled to applaud.

Tan came into the day with a 2-6 career record at all Grand Slam tournaments. Clearly enjoying herself-and the setting, the moment, the way it all was going-she broke to lead 6-5 with the help of a cross-court forehand winner, looked at her guest box, raised a fist and waved her arms to ask for more noise from a crowd that was loudly backing Williams.

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