WIMBLEDON, England — Tatjana Maria, a working mother of two, had childcare under control Tuesday.
As she and Charles-Edouard, her husband and coach, headed to Court No. 1 for the biggest match of her career, her daughters, Charlotte, 8, and Cecilia, 1, were happily ensconced on the day of Wimbledon. center of attention, one of Charlotte’s favorite places on tour.
When the family was reunited, Maria was a Wimbledon semifinalist.
“I am so glad that Charlotte is old enough to understand all this,” Maria said after her brave and resourceful 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 win over 22-year-old German compatriot Jule Niemeier.
There have been bigger upsets in women’s tennis: watch British teenager Emma Raducanu win the US Open women’s singles title as a qualifier on her first visit last year.
But Maria’s career has certainly been a great and moving surprise. She is 34 years old and gave birth to Cecilia a little over a year ago. She came into Wimbledon ranked 103rd in singles and having lost in the first round in her last eight Grand Slam singles events.
“I have goosebumps all over me,” she said after defeating Niemeier in one of the funniest matches of the women’s tournament, dropping her racket and covering her face with both hands after converting a match point.
Maria, who lives with her family in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., has a throwback game seemingly more in keeping with the 20th century than the 21st with its heavy reliance on cutting, including the forehand cut, and a yen for the net.
But in this wild and often open Wimbledon, he now faces close friend Ons Jabeur on Thursday for a place in the final. Jabeur, the No. 3 seed, defeated unseeded Marie Bouzkova, 3-6, 6-1, 6-1, on Center Court on Tuesday.
“I love Tatjana very much and her family is really amazing,” said Jabeur. “She’s my barbecue partner, so obviously it’s going to be difficult to play her.”
This is uncharted territory for both of them, and Jabeur, a 27-year-old Tunisian with a striking all-court game, has a great story of her own. She will be the first Arab woman to play a Grand Slam singles semifinal and she has become a symbol of hope and new possibilities in her region.
But Jabeur, a quarter-finalist at Wimbledon last year, has already come close to such success in tennis. Maria had never made it past the third round at a Grand Slam singles tournament so far and she had made it past the second round only once: at Wimbledon in 2015.
“I always thought I had something inside,” Maria said. “I always believed in this, but now being here in this place. …”
Maria paused for a moment.
“A year ago, I gave birth to my second daughter,” she said. “If someone told me that a year later you’re in a Wimbledon semi-final, that’s crazy.”
She considers her husband crazy.
“Of course, it surprises others, but I believe in my wife and I always tell her that I know she is capable of greater things,” he said Tuesday in an interview in French that was often interrupted by pats on the back and congratulations. . handshakes from other players and coaches.
“Tatjana is a warrior,” he continued. “From the first to the last point, from January 1 to December 31, she never gives anyone a free point. That is her strength, but she is also able to put everything in the right perspective because we have the family”.
Maria is the first mother to advance that far at Wimbledon since Serena Williams, another Palm Beach Gardens resident, reached the final in 2019. But Maria was on tour with a child in tow long before Williams, whose daughter, Olympia, he is 4 years old. Williams and Maria exchanged advice as Williams returned to play at Wimbledon this year at age 40 after nearly a year away from the tour.
“When Serena arrived, I told her that the nursery was already open, because she didn’t know, and her little boy went there,” said María. “It’s great that Serena is still playing tennis with a child.”
Maria said her main role model as a tennis mother was Kim Clijsters, the Belgian who is now definitely retired but won three Grand Slam singles titles after giving birth to her daughter Jada in 2008.
“I was one of the first after Kim,” Maria said. “She was my inspiration, and I hope that she maybe she can be an inspiration to others.”
Clijsters, 39 and now a mother of three, was watching at Wimbledon on Tuesday. “It’s amazing to see,” she said of Maria’s unexpected success.
Las Marías travel the world but they don’t need to leave home to be international.
At home, Tatjana Maria speaks German with her children and Charles-Edouard, a former French professional who played on the satellite tour, speaks French. Her mother, a frequent visitor, speaks her native language, Spanish, to her grandchildren, while Charlotte is enrolled in an online academy whose primary language is English.
“Charlotte speaks four languages,” said Charles-Edouard Maria.
She is also a promising and enthusiastic tennis player, coached primarily by her father, but also a frequent practice partner of her mother. She even warms it up before matches, though not at Wimbledon this year. Surprisingly, her frequent practice sessions haven’t just helped Charlotte’s game.
“We have a court at home, and every day during the lockdown and the pandemic, Tatjana trained with it,” said Charles-Edouard. “And it’s really been an asset to Tatjana’s game, because in showing Charlotte things, she’s had to go back to basics and that’s freshened up her game, and she’s built it up. It is one of the reasons why she is playing so much better than before.”
Maria won a WTA 250 event in Bogota, Colombia, this season on clay: her second singles title on the main tour. The other came in Mallorca in 2018 on grass, which was a harbinger for this Wimbledon.
He has a strong and relatively flat first serve, and his ability to hit very sliced shots from both wings keeps the ball particularly low on the turf. That makes it harder for opponents to attack, and Maria has defused some powerful opposition here, upsetting three seeds: No.26 Sorana Cirstea of Romania, No.5 Maria Sakkari of Greece and No.12 Jelena Ostapenko from Latvia.
Niemeier, making her Wimbledon debut, also had big and varied weapons, despite being ranked 97th. Watching her full-court fight with Maria often felt like stepping into a tennis time machine with both players jumping and carrying the net and Niemeier frequently serving and volleying and hitting overhead as Maria launched sky-high lobs, often beautifully placed.
Niemeier seemed to be in command, going up 4-2 in the third set, but Maria continued to improvise to close the gap. She saved a break point at 5-5 and then held on at 6-5 after a scrambled point that earned her a standing ovation from much of the crowd. She broke Niemeier’s serve to wrap up her most significant victory.
A few hours later, Jabeur closed his at Wimbledon. Up next: a surprise semi-final against his barbecue partner.
“She is one of the examples that I want the players to look up to,” Jabeur said of Maria. “Because she really struggled to play and win rounds at the Grand Slams and now she looks at her. She was a Wimbledon semifinalist after having two babies. It’s a really amazing story.”