Wimbledon: Maria Wins Spirited All-German Quarterfinal Against Niemeier

Tatjana Maria (photo: Porsche Tennis Talent Team)

WIMBLEDON/WASHINGTON, July 5, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

Tatjana Maria‘s fairytale Wimbledon Championships keeps getting better. On Tuesday afternoon, the 34-year-old German mother of two little girls became the oldest, first-time major semifinalist in the Open Era after defeating fellow countrywoman Jule Niemeier, 4-6, 6-2, 7-5, in a two-hour, 18-minute quarterfinal battle on No. 1 Court.

After coming back from 2-4 down in the final set, Maria maintained a sense of self-belief – which she had relied upon to get her out of earlier jams in the fortnight, coming back from 0-3 down in the final set of her second-round match against Romania’s Sorana Cirstea and after saving two match points in her fourth-round win over Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko.

Maria’s slice forehand was her best weapon against Niemeier, 12 years her junior, with the quarterfinal match on the line. Although she made 37 unforced errors, Maria also amassed 26 winners, converted five of seven break points, and outpointed Niemeier 109-97.

After her latest triumph, secured on her first match-point attempt, Maria and Niemeier shared a lengthy, heartfelt embrace at the net. After all, it was a good day for German women’s tennis. Then, the victor looked up at her box, where her husband and coach, Charles, stood. They celebrated together from a distance for everyone to see and enjoy.

“The match could have gone either way, there was very little between them,” ESPN analyst Mary Joe Fernandez said of Maria and Niemeier. “For Maria to keep persevering, to keep coming back, to have her second baby about 15 months ago and say ‘I’m going to come back again at a Grand Slam’ …”.

Indeed, it was a truly remarkable performance by Maria, who had never made it past the second round in a major prior to this year’s Wimbledon.

After 35 major appearances, Maria had finally achieved her first major semifinal. It’s been worth the effort and the wait, and to hear her describe it during her on-court, post-match interview with Rishi Persad of the BBC– with a huge smile on her face – was pure joy and delight.

“I’m mean, I have goose bumps everywhere; it was such a tough match against Jule,” Maria said, smiling. “We are from the same country; we are both German. Today, we made Germany really proud. …

“I have such great support around me,” Maria added. “I don’t know even what to say. On this court, I really tried to enjoy and play every single point, in front of you guys. The court is amazing, the crowd is amazing. It’s such a pleasure to play here.”

Ranked 103rd, Maria is also the lowest-ranked woman to make a major semifinal since Emma Raducanu (then-ranked No. 150) at last year’s US Open. She’s also the eighth woman ranked outside the Top 50 to make a Grand Slam semifinal in the last eight majors.

Additionally, Maria is the sixth German player in the Open Era, joining Steffi Graf, Bettina Bunge, Angelique Kerber, Sabine Lisicki, and Julia Görges – to reach the Wimbledon semifinals.

“I just tried to have fun today and play point by point,” admitted Maria, proud mother of two daughters, eight-year-old Charlotte and 15-month-old Cecilia. “It is a dream to be able to experience all this with my family. A year ago, I gave birth to my second daughter, and now I’m in the semifinals of Wimbledon. That cannot be put into words.”

On Thursday, Maria will face World No. 2 and third seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia, who became the first Arab or North African player – woman or man – to reach a Grand Slam semifinal, following her 3-6, 6-1, 6-1 victory over No. 66 Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic on Centre Court Tuesday evening.

Although Jabeur had lost twice in Grand Slam quarterfinal play – to Sofia Kenin at the Australian Open in 2020 and to Aryna Sabalenka at Wimbledon last year – this time she gained a comeback victory over Bouzkova that lasted one hour, 47 minutes and left Jabeur feeling relieved and gratified. She hit 30 winners to 27 unforced errors, broke Bouzkova’s serve six times in nine opportunities, and outpointed her opponent 83-61. Jabeur is the highest-remaining seed left in the women’s draw and is one of only two in the Top 16, along with 2019 Wimbledon champion Simona Halep.

The win extended the 27-year-old Jabeur’s current winning streak to 10 matches, following her title run last month on grass in Berlin in preparation for Wimbledon. She’s undefeated on grass this season.

“I’m really, really happy, especially that it happened on this court because I have so much love for this court and hopefully the journey for me will continue,” Jabeur said during her on-court interview following her victory.

“I knew Marie was going to come and really make me work to win a point. She’s a talented player and I’m really happy that I woke up in the second set and I played much better in the third set.”

Djokovic rallies from two sets down to beat Sinner

Three-time defending champion Novak Djokovic relied upon his experience – not only at Wimbledon, where he has won six singles titles, but also 20 major crowns overall – to come back from two-sets-to-love down in pulling off a remarkable five-set comeback victory over Jannik Sinner Tuesday afternoon on Centre Court.

The World No. 3 and top seed Djokovic from Serbia pulled out a three-hour, 35-minute victory, 5-7, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 against Sinner. It was the seventh time Djokovic has rallied from down 0-2 in a five-set match and third time at Wimbledon. The win extended his winning streak at The Championships to 26 matches, fourth longest streak in the Open Era. The six-time Wimbledon champion is now 84-10 at the All England Club.

The loss ended a tremendous run at the grass-court major by the 20-year-old No. 10 seed Sinner from Italy, who was playing on grass for just the ninth time. He had previously scored wins over Stan Wawrinka, Mikael Ymer, No. 20 seed John Isner and No. 5 seed Carlos Alcaraz to advance to his first major quarterfinal.

Although Sinner broke Djokovic’s serve four times en route to taking an early 2-sets-to-none lead 92 minutes into the contest, the 35-year-old Serbian relied upon his vast Centre Court experience – and in the end it rewarded him handsomely. By the conclusion, he appeared more relieved than related.

“Happiness, love, fulfillment, pride, [I feel] everything on this court,” expressed Djokovic during his court side interview with the BBC’s Lee McKenzie. “I love it. I think the majority of the players would agree this is the biggest tennis tournament in the history of our game, so this court is the most important one, definitely in my career and my life.

“This court inspired me to take the tennis racquet in my hand for the first time when I was five. Every single time I step on this court, the love affair keeps growing. So, hopefully, I can maintain that run.”

Djokovic took time to give props to Sinner, who won the NextGen ATP Finals title in 2019. “I must say huge congratulations for a big fight today to Jannik,” he said. “I’m sure there are going to be a lot of opportunities on the big stage. He is so mature for his age, he has been established now as a Top 10, Top 15 player for the past few years.

“He’s got plenty of time. It was unfortunate for him today, but [he had] a very good tournament and I wish him the bet of luck for the rest of the year.”

Djokovic admitted that Sinner was the better player for two sets. Then, he decided do something about it.“I had a little refreshment and a little pep talk in the mirror,” he revealed. “Sometimes, where not much is happening positively and the other guy is dominating, these things are necessary. I tried to recuperate and regather my thoughts. I was fortunate to start the third set very well. That gave me confidence and I saw a little doubt in his movement.”

Next, Djokovic will face  No. 9 seed Cameron Norrie of Great Britain, who pulled out a five-set thriller over No. 58 David Goffin of Belgium, 3-6, 7-5, 2-6, 6-3, 7-5, in Friday’s semifinal round.

Like the Djokovic-Sinner battle, the other men’s quarterfinal match on Tuesday’s order of play went the distance on No. 1 Court and stretched out over three hours and 28 minutes. It produced a happy outcome for British fans, who came out in big numbers to support the last British player – man or woman – left in the Wimbledon singles draws. It was Norrie’s second five-set match at Wimbledon this fortnight. Earlier, he was taken to five sets by Jaume Munar of Spain.

Norrie became the fourth British man in the Open Era to reach the last four at The Championships and first since Andy Murray in 2016 to reach the Wimbledon semifinals. He hit 38 winners and converted five of eight break points against Goffin, in his first major quarterfinal appearance. Now, Norrie is into his first major semifinal in 19 appearances.

“Just winning a match like this, I’m in shock. I don’t know what to say now,” Norrie said, full of emotion in voice, during his on-court interview. “But just straight flashbacks to all the hard work, all the preseasons and all the sacrifices I’ve had to make. So it definitely pays off and it feels pretty good.”

Reminded that he will face the six-time Wimbledon champion Djokovic on Friday, Norrie said:

“It’s great to get this, but it only gets tougher. I’m going to come out, I’m going to enjoy that and take it to him. Hopefully you guys can get behind me again. I’m sure you will. … Looking forward to it. Can’t enjoy it too much now, just [need to] get ready for Novak in a couple of days.”

Around the All England Club

• Women’s doubles 2018 champions and current No. 2 seeds Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova advanced to the semifinal round with a comeback victory over the No. 10 seeds Nicole Melichar-Martinez of the United States and Ellen Perez of Australia, 1-6, 7-6 (2), 6-2, in just over two hours on No. 2 Court. Next, they will face the team of Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia and Lyudmyla Kichenok of Ukraine. They beat the No. 4 seeds Shuko Aoyama of Japan and Hao-Ching Chan of Taiwan 4-6, 6-1, 7-5.

• Men’s doubles defending champions Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic, both of Croatia, seeded second, beat No. 11 seeds Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies, both of Germany, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3, in a quarterfinal round match. Next, the winners will face No. 6 seeds Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah, both of Colombia, who advanced by retirement over the American duo Denis Kudla and Jack Sock, ahead two sets to one and tied 1-1 in the fourth.

• In mixed doubles, Australian pair Samantha Stosur and Matthew Eden defeated Great Britain’s Alicia Barnett and Jonny O’Mara, 6-3, 6-1. Next, they will face American duo Coco Gauff and Jack Sock, who won their quarterfinal match on Monday.

Tuesday’s Wimbledon results

Wednesday’s Wimbledon order of play

All England Club fighting fines

Fines totaling $1 million have been levied by the WTA against the Lawn Tennis Association and the All England Club, according to Daily Mail reports. The fines are the result of the banning of Russian and Belarusian players from tournaments in Great Britain because of the war in Ukraine.

The All England Club is appealing its fine, which the newspaper said was for $250,000. The fine docked against the Lawn Tennis Association, which governs tennis in Great Britain, was $750,000. It is also expected to be appealed.

The WTA imposed the fines after no players from either Russia or Belarus were allowed to compete in grass-court tune-up events last month in Eastbourne, Nottingham and Birmingham, as well as Wimbledon.

Borg-McEnroe, “Battle of 18-16” 42 years ago this date

On July 5, 1980, Bjorn Borg won his fifth straight Wimbledon singles crown. He defeated John McEnroe, 1-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-7 (16), 8-6, in a Centre Court battle that lasted three hours and 53 minutes.

McEnroe saved five match points during the marathon 34-point fourth-set tie-break that was labeled by historians as “The Battle of 18-16.”

By the numbers

• No. 103 Tatjana Maria, who reached a career-high ranking of No. 46 in November 2017 after returning from her first maternity leave in 2014, is the fourth-lowest ranked player to advance to the Wimbledon semifinals since 1984. She joins Serena Williams (who was ranked No. 181 in 2018), Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (No. 134 in 1999) and Zheng Joe (No. 133 in 2008).

• Among many remarkable milestones, one that still stands after 70 years is the triple crown of titles won by Australia’s Frank Sedgman in 1952. Sedgman completed a triple feat that hasn’t been replicated since. He won the men’s singles, men’s doubles and mixed doubles titles at The Championships.

In the men’s final, Sedgman defeated Czech-born Egyptian Jaroslav Drobny, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-2. Then, he and Doris Hart of the United States teamed to beat Enrique Morea of Argentina and Thelma Long of Australia, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Finally, in the men’s doubles final, Sedgman and fellow Aussie Ken McGregor defeated Vic Seixas of the United States and Eric Sturgess of South Africa, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4.

• Of the eight quarterfinalists in the women’s singles draw, the only former Grand Slam champion was No. 16 seed Simona Halep of Romania. She won the 2018 French Open and 2019 Wimbledon Championships titles.

“Quotable …”

“It’s so interesting because three weeks ago, it was a low point for me. I kept telling myself that I’ll find my tennis. I had to just kind of keep being positive. I was injured, coming back from injury, not playing great.

“It’s a big jump. It’s so interesting. It’s kind of like how tennis is. One, two good weeks, five or six good matches in a row, can kind of just change everything. … Things like this, I’ve kind of worked for my whole life.

– No. 11 seed Taylor Fritz of the United States, who is into his first major quarterfinal in his 24th major try. On Wednesday, he will face two-time Wimbledon champion and No. 2 seed Rafael Nadal, whom Fritz defeated for the Indian Wells title in March.