Wimbledon, England – Tatjana Maria, a working mother of two, was under control on Tuesday.
When she and Charles Edward, her husband and coach, headed to Court No. 1 for the biggest match of their careers, their two daughters, 8-year-old Charlotte and 1-year-old Cecilia, were ecstatic on Wimbledon day. The Care Center, one of Charlotte’s favorite spots on the tour.
By the time the family was reunited, Maria had reached the Wimbledon semi-finals.
“I’m so happy Charlotte is old enough to understand all of this,” said Maria after her daring and wide-stunt 4-6 6-2 7-5 victory over 22-year-old German compatriot Jules Niemeyer.
There were bigger shocks in women’s tennis: watch British teen Emma Radocano win the US Open women’s singles title as a qualifier on her first visit last year.
But Maria’s race was definitely a big, touching surprise. She is 34 and gave birth to Cecilia just over a year ago. She reached Wimbledon at number 103 in singles and lost in the first round in her last eight Grand Slam singles tournaments.
“I got goosebumps all over,” she said after defeating Niemeier in one of the women’s tournament’s most disconcerting matches, dropping her racket and covering her face with both hands after converting the match point.
Maria, who lives with her family in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, has a throwback game that feels more in tune with the 20th than in the 21st century with its heavy reliance on the slide, including the front hand slide, and the yen for the grille.
But at the wild and often wide open Wimbledon, she will now face her best friend Anas Jabeur on Thursday for a place in the final. Jaber, seeded No. 3, defeated unseeded Marie Bozkova 3-6, 6-1, 6-1 on the Central Court on Tuesday.
“I love Tatjana so much, and her family is really amazing,” Jaber said. “She’s my barbecue buddy, so it’s obviously going to be difficult to play with her.”
This is uncharted territory for both, and 27-year-old Jaber, a 27-year-old Tunisian, has a story of her own. She will be the first Arab woman to play in a Grand Slam singles semi-final and has become a symbol of hope and new possibilities in her region.
But Jabeur, who reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon last year, was already close to such success in tennis. Maria had not yet made it past the third round of a singles tournament at a Grand Slam and had only made it through the second round once: at Wimbledon in 2015.
“I always believed I had something on the inside,” Maria said. “I have always believed in this, but to be here now is this place. …”
Maria paused for a moment.
“A year ago, I gave birth to my second daughter,” she said. “If someone tells me you’re one year into the semi-finals of Wimbledon, it’s crazy.”
He considered her husband crazy.
He said in an interview in French on Tuesday that he was often interrupted by congratulatory slaps and handshakes from other players and coaches.
He continued: “Tatiana is a warrior.” “From the first point to the last, from January 1 to December 31, she never gives anyone a free point. That’s her strength, but she is also able to put everything into perspective because we have the family.”
Maria is the first mom to go this far at Wimbledon since Serena Williams, another Palm Beach Gardens resident, reached the final in 2019. But Mariah was touring with her baby long before Williams, whose daughter Olympia, 4, is. Maria exchanged tips when Williams returned to play at Wimbledon this year at the age of 40 after nearly a year on the tour.
“When Serena arrived, I told her the nursery was already open, because she didn’t know, and her little boy went there,” said Maria. “It’s great that Serena is still playing tennis with a kid.”
Maria said her main role model as a tennis player’s mother was Kim Clijsters, a Belgian who permanently retired but won three Grand Slam titles after giving birth to her daughter Jada in 2008.
“I was one of the first after Kim,” said Maria. “She was my inspiration, and I hope to inspire others.”
Clijsters, 39 and now a mother of three, was watching Wimbledon matches on Tuesday. “It’s amazing to see her,” she said of Maria’s unexpected success.
Marias travels the world but they don’t need to leave home to be international.
At home, Tatiana Maria speaks German to their children, while former Frenchman Charles Edouard, who played on a satellite tour, speaks French. His mother, who visits her frequently, speaks her native Spanish to her grandchildren while Charlotte is enrolled in an online academy whose primary language is English.
Charles Edward Maria said, “Charlotte speaks four languages.”
She is also a promising and enthusiastic tennis player, primarily coached by her father but also a frequent practice partner of her mother. She even warms it up before games, but not at Wimbledon this year. Surprisingly, their frequent training sessions not only helped Charlotte’s game.
“We have a courthouse at home, and every day during the lockdown and pandemic, Tatiana trained with her,” Charles Edward said. “It was really a plus for Tatjana, because by showing things off to Charlotte, she had to go back to basics and that’s modernized her game, and she’s built on it. It’s one of the reasons why she’s playing so much better than before.”
Maria won the WTA 250 Championship in Bogota, Colombia, this season on clay: her second singles title on the main tour. The other came in Mallorca in 2018 on turf, which foreshadowed this Wimbledon championship.
She has a powerful and relatively flat serve, and her ability to strike hard hits from both wings keeps the ball particularly low on the grass. This makes it difficult for opponents to attack, and Maria has managed to defuse some tough competition here, upsetting three ranked players: Romania’s 26th seed Sorana Kirstia, Greece’s 5th seed Maria Sakkari and Greece’s 12th seed Jelena Ostapenko.
Niemeyer, who made her Wimbledon debut, had great and varied weapons as well, despite only ranking 97th. Watching her struggle with Maria on all the courts was often seen as stepping into a tennis time machine as the two players chop and charge the net, Niemeyer frequently shoots, shoots and hits over the head after Maria has been throwing a high shot, often in a beautiful position.
Niemeyer seemed to enjoy the drive, taking a 4-2 lead in the third set, but Maria continued to fall back and improvise in the race to cut the difference. She saved a point for a break at 5-5 and then held on to a 6-5 score after a point stampede that got a standing ovation from the crowd. She broke Niemeyer’s serve to conclude her most important victory.
A few hours later, Jaber closed her home in Wimbledon. Next up: A surprise semi-final against her barbecue mate.
“It is one of the examples that I hope the players look forward to,” Jaber said of Maria. “Because she has really struggled playing and winning rounds at the major tournaments and we’re looking at her now. She qualified for the Wimbledon semi-finals after having two kids. It’s a really great story.”