WIMBLEDON, England — As the light faded on Saturday night, Serena Williams stared down a 0-40 deficit on her serve in the second set of her match on Centre Court.
The outcome was familiar. Williams erased the deficit and held. But the soundtrack — scattered shouts of “Come on, Andy!” — was different.
Williams, alongside the British sports hero Andy Murray, notched her first mixed doubles win at a Grand Slam tournament in over two decades, beating Alexa Guarachi and Andreas Mies, 6-4, 6-1, in front of a packed stadium of supportive, expectant fans.
“At some point I started feeling a lot of pressure,” Williams said. “‘Oh, my God, I have to do well because this match is so hyped that I want to see it.’ I didn’t even want to be in it — I kind of just wanted to watch it. Maybe I’ll try to get a video of it or watch it somewhere.”
The news that Williams and Murray would take the court together, confirmed on Tuesday, caught many happily off-guard. Williams has won seven singles titles here; Murray has won two.
After Murray, who had a second hip surgery in January, announced he would make a doubles-only comeback at Wimbledon, speculation quickly ran wild about whom Murray might choose to be his mixed doubles partner. Williams was floated as a possible dream partner, and she coyly indulged the possibility in her news conferences for days.
But with Williams short on match play this season because of a knee injury, adding mixed doubles to her schedule was tactical, not just fanciful.
Williams and Murray know each other’s games well, and have each had success in doubles. But one area they said they had to work out was who would defer to the other for decisions on the court.
“We were saying before the match we’re both the younger sibling, so we’re used to being bossed by our older brother and sister,” Murray told the BBC, alluding to his brother, Jamie, and Williams’s sister, Venus, the most common partner for each. “We’re sort of taking it in turns, I guess.”
One area where Williams asserted herself, however, was on which side of the court each would cover.
“I always play the forehand side,” she said. “If you want to play with me, I play forehand. It’s just the only rule I have.
It was the first mixed-doubles match ever for Guarachi and Mies — supported by one fan with a shout of “Come on, other people! — and the occasion did not disappoint.
“When we saw that they signed in, we were joking about how nice it would be to play them on Centre Court,” Mies said. “One hour later we were practicing and we saw the draw. It was a dream come true. We were laughing. To play against them? And it was even better than we thought.”
Mies said he made a wager with his coach that he could serve harder than Williams during the match. His serve topped out at 120 m.p.h.; hers reached 122 m.p.h.
“I was trying to put some more heat on the ball,” Mies said, smiling. “But I don’t know. I had some sweaty hands.”
“We thought they’re maybe also a little bit nervous,” Mies said, hopefully. “But they weren’t, really.”
The victory finished Saturday on a winning note from Murray, who was knocked out of the men’s doubles draw hours earlier. Murray and Pierre-Hugues Herbert lost to the sixth-seeded pair of Nikola Mektic and Franko Skugor, 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-2, 6-3, failing to break the Croatian pair’s serve in the entire match.
Murray was hesitant about adding mixed doubles to his slate in his first Grand Slam tournament back from hip replacement surgery. Despite winning the men’s doubles event in his first tournament back two weeks ago at the Queen’s Club, he said his expectations at Wimbledon had always been tempered.
“It’s not a blow, really, in the grand scheme of things,” Murray said of the men’s doubles loss. “I know you guys were talking about winning the doubles, winning mixed doubles, playing 12 matches in 11 days, things like that; I was aware that that wasn’t going to be the case, most likely.”