Just one year after maternity leave, Germany’s Tatjana Maria extended her resurgent season with a major milestone at a Grand Slam event.
The 34-year-old mother of two reached the round of 16 at a Grand Slam for the first time in her career, beating No.5 seed Maria Sakkari of Greece 6-3, 7-5 at Wimbledon.
“The first time in the round of 16, that’s already unbelievable,” Maria said in her post-match press conference. “Winning against Sakkari today is amazing. I think I played a good match from start to finish.”
Maria, a mother of two, brings the family business to the Wimbledon race
The upset at Court No.2 on Friday marks the fifth Top 10 win of Maria’s career. Maria hadn’t won a match in a Grand Slam main draw since 2018, but she has already picked up three wins this week.
Maria had reached the third round at a Slam only once before, at Wimbledon 2015. But her slice-filled game propelled her to another big run in her 10th SW19 appearance, and this time she went one step further with her victory over Sakkari in 90 minutes.
Back for more: Former Top 50 Player Maria returned to the tour in July 2021 after giving birth to her second daughter, Cecilia, in April of last year (her eldest daughter, Charlotte, was born in 2013). Since then, she has risen to No. 103 in the world, buoyed by winning her second career title in Bogotá as a qualifier in April.
Sakkari had previously beaten Maria in the first round of this year’s Australian Open, but Maria avenged that loss, hitting 19 game winners and just 12 unforced errors on Friday. Sakkari’s 28 game-winning shots were outweighed by 29 unforced errors.
“The match against Sakkari at the Australian Open gave me some confidence because I saw that it was very close,” Maria said. “I knew I have my chances. If I play smart and well, I can win this match.”
Comeback Queen: Maria had already scored a big win in the second round on Wednesday, when she recovered from a double break in the third set to beat No.26 seed Sorana Cirstea for her first Top 50 win in more than two years.
Once again, Maria had to fight against a terrible deficit in a set. Sakkari led 5-2 in the second set, and the Greek had two set points at 5-4 to level the match. But Maria fired a set of strong serves to hold at 5-5, and the German took the next two games to complete the upset.
Maria will face a third straight seed when she takes on 12th seed Jelena Ostapenko in the round of 16. It will be Maria’s first meeting against 2017 French Open champion Ostapenko, who was also a Wimbledon semifinalist in 2018.
Mertens knocks out Kerber
It wasn’t a perfect day for Germany, though, as 24th seed Elise Mertens of Belgium edged 2018 Wimbledon champion and 15th seed Angelique Kerber 6-4, 7-5. on Court No. 1. Mertens earned his first Top 20 win in over a year with the win.
Mertens had beaten German No.1 Kerber in their only previous meeting at WTA 1000 Doha in 2019, en route to the biggest title of her career. The Belgian knocked out former world number 1 Kerber again, this time in 1 hour and 20 minutes on the pitch in London.
Mertens was coming off a narrow victory in the previous round, saving two match points against Panna Udvardy in a match that spanned Wednesday night and Thursday.
But Mertens seemed unaffected by the lingering effects of that marathon, converting five of her seven break points and hitting 18 game winners to 14 unforced errors. Kerber’s 16 winners were outnumbered by 28 unforced errors.
“It was a very difficult match. [in the] second round, I lost the first set, then I lost two match points,” Mertens said afterward. “I played a third set yesterday, so I feel like I’m on the court non-stop.
“That’s also a good sign because I haven’t had those games in the last two weeks. I thought, ‘OK, let’s have some energy, some rallies, some games.’ I think that helped me today too, knowing that even when you’re down you can come back, being mentally strong.”
Mertens, who recovered from a second-set break against Kerber, will face No.3 seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia in the Belgian’s second trip to the Wimbledon round of 16. Mertens beat Jabeur in their only previous meeting, in the last year. US Open.