WIMBLEDON – Discovering Harmony Tan, the “faller” of Serena Williams

WIMBLEDON - Discovering Harmony Tan, the "faller" of Serena Williams

First of all, let’s say that everything is fine. Harmony Tan, who forfeited yesterday in doubles the day after her historic victory against Serena Williams in the super-tie break of the 3rd set – forfeit which also had the gift of annoying her partner, the German Tamara Korpatsch – , should be perfectly fit to play her second round this Thursday against the Spaniard Sara Sorribes Tormo. She was actually suffering from calf cramps that she didn’t want to take the risk of aggravating, so as not to go from crazy dream to absolute nightmare in the space of a few hours.

If we hear the wrath of Korpatsch, it would have been a pity, indeed, to have to throw in the towel at the precise moment when the Frenchwoman finally touches her finger, at 24, this long-awaited moment when, in a way, she makes her entry into the big world of women’s tennis. Something she may not have been quite sure she was capable of, until Wimbledon 2022.


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It must be said that Harmony starts from afar. More specifically from Asia: his father, a computer engineer at Oracle, is a Chinese from Cambodia, where he was born; her mother was born in Vietnam before landing in France after the fall of Saigon in 1975, then embracing a career as a journalist which led her notably to the salmon pages of the Figaro Economyto RFI and to the co-editor-in-chief of… Chiefa food magazine.

In short, among the Tan, culturally there was little question of tennis, if at all. “We are not a family with a sporting tradition but I wanted my children to do so so that they wouldn’t have to stay in front of the TV all day, recounts from Wimbledon Harmony’s mum, Lizqueen, who now oversees her daughter’s career. That’s how Harmony did gymnastics, judo, golf and tennis, which she started in Neuilly-sur-Marne. And then, one day, during a detection day, she was spotted by the Nogent club, which offered me free training. Well, I got tricked by the word “free” (laughs)!”

Harmony’s predispositions did the rest: in her early years, she won almost all the tournaments in which she participated in her Ligue d’Ile-de-France. His talent is obvious, so much so that at eight years old, his parents send him to do an eight-day internship at Nick Bolletieri’s academy in Florida. Just to see. “It cost us a blind, $350 for 15 minutes, just to get Nick’s opinion!”, laughing today (but less at the time) Ms. Tan. Fortunately, Nick’s opinion is favorable, as will be two years later that of Melanie Molitor, the mother of Martina Hingis. The experts are formal: yes, the “little one” has the potential to one day become a professional player.

Harmony Tan

Credit: Getty Images

A fall of two floors as a click

For the family to finally convince themselves of this, it will take an accident in life, which could have turned into a tragedy. While in fifth grade at the Collège Sainte-Thérèse in Champigny-sur-Marne, the young Harmony had a nasty fall from two floors down a staircase at the school. The firefighters are called. The mother too, of course: “I found her in the fire truck, she was there, with her neck brace, and the first thing she said to me when she saw me was : ‘Mom, will I be able to play tennis again?’ That day, I understood that she really wanted to make a living out of it.”

But from the cut to the lips, there is a step. Harmony may have the talent and the flame, but she is slow to have the physical appearance of the job. Her late growth and slow-maturing atypical game quickly distanced her from the best French women in her class of 97 – including Fiona Ferro – and closed the door to federal projects. The family will then have to bend over backwards and bleed themselves financially to support her in her project, with the only condition that she secures a plan B. What the player will do by passing her Bac S then by being eligible for the Sciences Po Paris sector reserved for high-level players.

She won’t have time to take the lessons. Because this is the precise moment when the career of Harmony, who preferred to start very early on the pro circuit – first ITF tournament at 14 years old – rather than lingering in the juniors, begins to take off. And this in large part thanks to the providential help of Nathalie Tauziat, whom she asked to coach her from a distance. With the regular advice of the former Wimbledon finalist (in 1998), Harmony went from the 500th place in the world to the top 100, which she reached last April just before honoring a first selection in the Billie Jean King Cup against Italy, replacing Clara Burel, injured.

“Until now, we most often worked by telephone, Nathalie being based in Biarritz and also very involved with Canadian players, says Lizqueen Tan again. We arrived like that to the gates of the top 100 but there, we said to ourselves that to go even higher, we were going to need more help. Because the course is important.”

This is how Harmony will approach Sam Sumyk herself, the French coach known for having notably taken Vera Zvonareva, Victoria Azarenka and Garbiñe Muguruza to their greatest feats of arms. The Breton, based in the United States, is seduced by the project and begins the 2022 season at the bedside of Harmony, which he accompanies in South America, then on the American tour and finally during the season on clay, until at Roland Garros. For personal reasons, he is not present at Wimbledon, where Tauziat, on the other hand, made the trip.

With Sumyk, Harmony has at least one common passion: that of surfing, which she practiced a lot in her adolescence before calming down as her tennis progressed. Ditto for the piano, which she practiced for eight years at the Neuilly-sur-Marne Conservatory, even passing national-level competitions.

Surfing/piano, Tauziat/Sumyk… A priori improbable associations but which ultimately work very well and which say a lot about the “multifaceted” side of Harmony Tan. Which is also expressed in her tennis, varied and creative, devoid of very strong but destabilizing strokes, in any case against the canons of modern women’s tennis, essentially based on power, at least in recent years, at the bottom of the generation in which Harmony grew up.

In short, the latter was built a little against all odds. But now seems ripe to take off definitively, in the first sense of the term since she is about to leave the parental nest to move into an apartment she has just bought, in the 5th arrondissement of Paris. The 78,000 pounds (about 90,000 euros) of prize money promised for her victory over Serena – her third Grand Slam success after also a success against Alizé Cornet at Roland-Garros in 2021 and against Yulia Putintseva at the Open d’ Australia this year – will be timely to support her in this investment. It hasn’t been a long calm river but everything is in harmony, now, in his life as in his career.

Harmony Tan

Credit: Getty Images


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