Tatjana Maria has a special sparring partner as she practises ahead of the WTA Chennai Open - her daughter Charlotte, 8.
Even after an hour-long session playing together, Charlotte continues to nudge her mother to play on. Maria, 35, decides against indulging, urging her little one to save energy for school work.
Mothers continuing to enjoy success in sport is fast becoming a norm from an anomaly and Maria joins a star-studded list of moms who play while juggling the demands of motherhood.
“I wanted to have a family all my life and that’s the most important. ” says this year’s Wimbledon semifinalist from Germany, who has had an impressive run after having her second child in 2021.
Playing full time on the circuit does not mean offloading parenting duties to her partner. It’s either everything or nothing for Maria.
“If I couldn’t be with my husband and kids, I wouldn’t play tennis. For me, really, the family is important. It keeps me going. “
As she speaks, a restless Charlotte wants her undivided attention. Maria is quick to talk about her daughter’s growing skills in the game. “She’s also playing really well in the local tournaments. You should actually be interviewing her rather than me,” Maria says, with a laugh.
Maria, who used to be in the top 50 of WTA rankings in 2016, has had a resurgence of sorts. At Wimbledon this year, Maria became the oldest first-time Grand Slam semifinalist in the Open era in her 35th appearance at such a tournament. She became only the sixth woman to reach the Wimbledon semifinals after turning 34 years old. The previous five being Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert, Venus Williams and Serena Williams.
Ranked 84 in the world, in Chennai, Maria will face India’s Ankita Raina, who is ranked 241 places below her in the world rankings. Be that as it may, Maria is not one to underestimate the India No. 1.
“To be honest I haven't seen her play, but I know her of course, it's not an easy match because she’s the home favourite, but I'm ready for the challenge.”
Being one of the oldest in the field doesn’t bother Maria; she’s too busy focusing on enjoying her tennis. Along the way, she has also forged a number of friendships on the tour, including US Open runner-up Ons Jabeur.
“If she (Jabeur) continues like this she will definitely win a lot of Grand Slams. I think she's disappointed because it hurts (losing the US Open final) but if you look at the bigger picture she's right there and has a chance to win a Grand Slam really soon.”
Maria’s career has coincided that of Serena Williams. Like many, Maria also doesn’t think the 23-time Grand Slam winner is quite done yet. “I don’t think it’s true that she retired. You know she also wants to have a second try, I means she’s a little bit older than me. It’s hard to say something about this because it’s her personal decision but I think she’s not 100 per cent ready.”