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Miracles do happen. At the age of 34, Tatjana Maria, a woman who this time last year had just given birth to her second daughter, reached her first grand slam semi-final at Wimbledon on Tuesday, beating another German, Jule Niemeier, 4-6, 6-2, 7-5. Mixing forehand slices with outstanding movement and great net play, the world No 103 came from 4-2 down in the third set to clinch a place in the last four.
“I have goosebumps everywhere,” said Maria, who sealed victory when Niemeier netted a backhand volley. “It was such a tough match against Jule, she’s from the same country as me, we’re both German. Today I think we made Germany really proud.”
Until this fortnight, Maria had not made it past the third round of a grand slam. She came into Wimbledon with a 5-8 record and had not even won a match at a slam since the US Open in 2018. But she kept her nerve brilliantly under pressure.
Maria gave birth to Cecilia in April 2021 and returned to the tour only in July 2021 but until as recently as March this year she was still ranked outside the top 250. She has been hitting with her eight-year-old daughter, Charlotte, on the practice courts and is proud of doing so well in front of her children. “It’s a dream to live this with my family, with my two little girls. One year ago, I just gave birth, almost, so it’s crazy.”
Niemeier, playing in the main draw of a slam for just the second time, beat Heather Watson in the previous round and began the stronger, taking the first set with some fine all-round play. With both women using the forehand slice, a shot that seems to have made a comeback this year, Maria upped her game to level only to fall 4-2 down in the decider as Niemeier reasserted her dominance.
Tatjana Maria's career grand slam results in her 35 grand slam main draws:
1R, 1R, 1R, 2R, 2R, 1R, 1R, 1R, 1R, 2R, 1R, 1R, 1R, 1R, 3R, 1R, 2R, 2R, 1R, 2R, 2R, 2R, 1R, 1R, 2R, 2R, 1R, 1R, 1R, 1R, 1R, 1R, 1R, 1R, *SF*
— Tumaini Carayol (@tumcarayol) July 5, 2022
But it was the more experienced Maria who prevailed, breaking back for 4-4 and then breaking again in the 12th game to reach the semi-finals, where Ons Jabeur, a close friend on tour, could be waiting.
“Ons, it would be really nice to play Ons because she is really part of my family,” she said. “She is part of my family, she loves my kids, she is playing with them every day.
“It would be great to play her, we never know. But I am only happy that I am in a semi-final now.”