Tatjana Maria: 'I'm in the semi-final of Wimbledon - but what makes me proudest is to be a mum'

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Tatjana Maria waves to the crowd after her dramatic win against Jule Niemeier - AP
Tatjana Maria waves to the crowd after her dramatic win against Jule Niemeier - AP

Just 15 months ago Tatjana Maria was giving birth to her second daughter Cecilia. Now, she is a Wimbledon semi-finalist.

Immediately after securing the biggest win of her career, the 34-year-old made an emotional tribute to her daughters. "It's a dream to live this with my two little girls," Maria said. "One year ago I just gave birth almost. I mean, it’s crazy."

She did it in dramatic fashion too, staging a comeback after going a set and a break down to her German compatriot Jule Niemeier.

Niemeier, 22, was practically strolling to the last-four, such was her superior composure and quality in the first half of this match, but Maria somehow sliced her way into contention. She fought off a break point at 5-5 in the decider and eventually closed it out 4-6, 6-2, 7-5.

The feat is all the more remarkable because of how Maria, the world No 103, has previously struggled to make an impact at major events. In her 34 previous main draw appearances at Grand Slams, she had only once progressed as far as the third round at the All England Club back in 2015.

Now she is one of just six women to reach the last four at Wimbledon aged 34-plus. She said joining this exclusive list – which includes Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, Chrissie Evert, Venus Williams and Serena Williams – was a "proud" moment.

Maria’s late-career surge has been truly remarkable - AFP
Maria’s late-career surge has been truly remarkable - AFP

Only she and Serena Williams have achieved the milestone as mothers but, unlike the 23-time major champion, Maria's career highlights have generally come since having her children.

She broke into the top 50 for the first time after the birth of her daughter Charlotte and she even rebuilt her game during that first maternity leave, switching to a one-handed backhand with the help of coach and husband Charles-Edouard. Now she has a shot at reaching a major final less than a year since returning to competitive tennis from her second maternity leave.

Breaking down barriers is part of her motivation. "I reached the top 50 with Charlotte, and now I'm back with my second child – still everybody was doubting," she said. "It's a little bit my life to show everybody that I'm still here and I'm a fighter, and I keep going and dreaming. That's what I want to show my kids."

Maria's family life on tour is unconventional, but one she says her daughters are thriving in. Her eight-year-old Charlotte has a family-run Instagram account that includes the bio "future tennis player", so inspired is she by her mother and the champions she gets to rub shoulders with. At Wimbledon this fortnight Maria's days have started on the practice courts with Charlotte for their 8:30am training slot, ahead of her own more serious hit.

Looking towards the most important match of her career on Thursday, she said her routine would be no different – including changing her one-year-old's nappies and taking them both to the Wimbledon tournament creche.

"For me that's the most important in my life: to be a mum of my two kids," she said. "Nothing will change this. I'm in the semi-final of Wimbledon, it's crazy, but I'm still a mum. After this I will go out over there and I will see my kids and I will do the same thing what I do every single day. I will change her Pampers. I try to keep normal as much as possible, because what makes me proudest is to be a mum."

Maria will face her good friend and tournament favourite Ons Jabeur, who continued her unbeaten run on grass this season with her own comeback win against Marie Bouzkova.

World No 2 Jabeur recovered from a dismal start to her match to beat the Czech player 3-6 6-1 6-1 and reach the first major semi-final of her career.

"I love Tatjana so much, her family are amazing and she's my BBQ buddy," Jabeur said upon learning she will face Maria. "It’s going to be tough to play her, she’s a great friend. I’m really happy for her, I wish players would look up to her. It’s an amazing story."

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