Wimbledon 2022: Maria beats fellow German Niemeier for semi-final spot
Experience overcame youth in the Wimbledon quarter-finals when 34-year-old Tatjana Maria beat 22-year-old Jule Niemeier 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 in an entertaining battle of German outsiders.
Experience overcame youth in the Wimbledon quarter-finals when 34-year-old Tatjana Maria beat 22-year-old Jule Niemeier 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 in an entertaining battle of German outsiders
Maria, who returned from maternity leave only last summer after giving birth to her second daughter, is ranked 103 in the world and Niemeier 97.
"I have goosebumps everywhere," Maria said in a courtside interview. "It was such a tough match against Jule ... I think today we made Germany really proud."
Both women started nervously, spraying errors on either side of Court 1, but Niemeier, playing at her first Wimbledon, took the early initiative, breaking in the first game and grabbing the set when Maria put a forehand wide.
Maria, upped her game in the second set, producing some telling returns, heavy slice and deft drop shots. She took the set with a volleyed winner on Niemeier's serve.
In a match of fluctuating fortunes, big-hitting Niemeier could not find her rhythm on her greatest weapon - the serve - producing 11 double faults.
Among the unforced errors, the duo shared rallies of high quality and commitment, including a memorable 13-shot battle late in the third set when Niemeier threw herself on the turf in a vain attempt to reach a drop shot.
Neither woman had reached a Grand Slam quarter-final before but Maria held her nerve in the final set, breaking back after dropping her serve in the fifth game, then taking the match when Niemeier, on serve, netted on match point.
Watched by beaming husband and coach Charles Maria, she praised the crowd for their support and said she could not believe she had reached a Grand Slam semi-final.
"It's a dream to live this with my family, to live this with my two girls. Almost one year ago I gave birth, it's crazy," Maria said.
She will play either her friend Ons Jabeur, the third-seeded Tunisian, or 66th-ranked Czech Marie Bouzkova in the semis.
I'm in the semi-finals but still have nappies to change, says Maria
Maria said it was crazy to be in her first Grand Slam semi-final at the 47th attempt but that being a mum was still her proudest achievement.
She missed three Grand Slams last year due to the birth of her second daughter Cecilia and was ranked outside the top 250 as recently as March.
But on Tuesday, watched by her first daughter Charlotte, Maria became the sixth woman in the Open era to reach the Wimbledon semis after her 34th birthday.
"I think for me that's the most important in my life, to be a mum of my two kids. Nothing will change this," she told a news conference, still with the smile on her face from when she left Court One.
"I'm here, yeah, 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 that I do every single day.
"I will change her Pampers, I mean, everything normal. I try to keep normal as much as possible, because what makes me the proudest is to be a mum."
Maria has a knack for confounding expectations, having first broken into the top 50 in the world rankings following the birth of her first daughter.
"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 of my life to show everybody that I'm still here and I'm a fighter, and I keep going and I keep dreaming. That's what I want to show my kids."
Although Niemeier's impressive run came to an end, she will not forget her debut in the main draw at Wimbledon in a hurry having seen off players like Anett Kontaveit, Lesia Tsurenko and Heather Watson on her march to the last eight.
It shows German tennis is in a strong place with the youngster breaking into the top 100 this year.
"I think it was a great match from both of us. (It was a) tough one today, but Tatjana just played really good in the right moments," Niemeier said.