Katie Boutler, the new darling of SW19 and the first of the Fantastic Four aiming to take Brit hopes further into the realms of the fantastical, was quickly crushed by France’s Harmony Tan.
After her 6-1, 6-1 defeat, completed in just 51 minutes, Boulter reflected on the highs and lows of an emotional week, the death of her grandmother being followed by a brave win, and admitted: “I think this was one step too far for me.
“This [defeat] is obviously a pretty difficult one to take but I may have seen it coming a little bit. I’d started to reach an emotional and physical point where I was struggling in the warm-up. I’m a bit drained.”
The 25-year-old British No3 had been trying to channel the success of Leicester City, the football team from her heartland who were shock champions in 2016. As it turned out she more resembled a meek version of the club, perhaps from back when their players wore tights in winter, though there were mitigating circumstances.
Were hopes too high? Maybe. Anyone who witnessed Tan very probably end Serena Williams’ reign as the Queen of Centre Court would know that here was a canny player with a clean, unerring strike.
She drop-shotted the American icon relentlessly but didn’t deploy the tactic here. After seeking acknowledgement for her winners from a very pro-Williams audience, this was another match where hardly anyone wanted her to win, though this time she didn’t care.
Tan, 24, played dream tennis and everything seemed to go her way, including two net cords in quick succession for the first break of serve. By the end she was even hitting tweeners - a collector’s item in the women’s game - but by then Boutler was resigned to her fate.
The match was on No 2 Court - a surprise given Boutler’s thrilling win on Centre on Thursday and the big, protective arm the crowd threw round her shoulders when she tearfully dedicated the victory to her tennis-loving gran.
More open than the main arena, that breeze bothered Boulter on serve, but of greater concern would have been the killing length Tan was achieving on the baseline rallies while Boulter’s shots were never quite deep enough, inviting the volleyed finish.
Virtually nothing worked for Boulter and almost everything did for Tan. Every drive to the corners, even if they were greeted with only grudging applause, and in particular every chopped return which died instantly on the other side of the net. “She’s got a great slice and she used the wind really well,” admitted Boutler.
There wasn’t much harmony between Tan and her doubles partner Tamara Korpatsch after she angered the latter by dissolving their partnership to concentrate on singles, but on this form it’s understandable. Her progress here is a riposte to some disbelievers. “When I was young, they told me that I cannot be a really good player with this game,” she said.
Boulter’s game, after some injuries and despite this setback, is on the up. “I’m tired but in the best place I’ve ever been. There are loads of positives I can take from Wimbledon.”