Wimbledon, England. On Tuesday, Tatyana Maria, a working mother of two, took charge of childcare.
As she and Charles-Édouard, her husband and coach, headed to No. 1 Court for the biggest match of her career, their daughters, 8-year-old Charlotte and 1-year-old Cecilia, happily settled into Wimbledon Kindergarten, one of her favorites. Charlotte’s seats during the tour.
By the time of the family reunion, Maria was a semi-finalist at Wimbledon.
“I’m so glad Charlotte is old enough to understand all this,” Maria said after her daring, resourceful 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 victory over her 22-year-old German compatriot Jules Niemeyer.
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But Maria’s run was certainly a big and touching surprise. She is 34 years old and gave birth to Cecilia just over a year ago. She arrived at Wimbledon finishing 103rd in singles and losing in the first round of her last eight singles Grand Slams.
“I get goosebumps,” she said after beating Niemeyer in one of the most exciting matches of the women’s tournament, dropping her racket and covering her face with both hands after the match was realized.
Maria, who lives with her family in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, has a retro game that seems more in tune with the 20th century than the 21st, with her heavy addiction from the slice, including the slice on the right, and pull to the grid.
But in this wild and often wide-open Wimbledon, she will now face her close friend Ons Jaber on Thursday for a place in the final. Jaber, No. 3 seeded, defeated unseeded Marie Buzkova, 3-6, 6-1, 6-1, on Center Court Tuesday.
“I love Tatyana very much and her family is really wonderful,” Zhaber said. “She’s my barbecue buddy, so obviously she’s going to be difficult to play.”
It’s uncharted territory for both, and Jabeur, a 27-year-old Tunisian with an attractive court game, has a story of her own. She will become the first Arab woman to play in a Grand Slam singles semi-final and has become a symbol of hope and new opportunities in her region.
But Jabert, last year’s Wimbledon quarter-finalist, was already on the verge of such tennis success. Maria still hasn’t made it past the third round of a Grand Slam singles tournament, and she’s only made it past the second round once: at Wimbledon in 2015.
“I always thought I had something inside me,” Maria said. “I have always believed in it, but to be here in this place now. …”
Maria was silent for a moment.
“A year ago I gave birth to my second daughter,” she said. “If someone tells me that a year later you are in the semi-finals of Wimbledon, that’s crazy.”
Consider her husband crazy.
“Of course it surprises others, but I believe in my wife and always tell her that I know she is capable of more,” he said in a French-language interview on Tuesday, often interrupted by congratulatory slaps and handshakes from other players and trainers.
“Tatyana is a warrior,” he continued. “From the first to the last point, from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, she never gives anyone a free point. That’s her strength, but she’s also able to see things right because we have a family.”
Maria is the first mother to advance this far at Wimbledon since Serena Williams, another Palm Beach Gardens resident, reached the final in 2019. But Maria was touring with a baby in tow long before Williams, whose daughter Olympia is 4. Williams and Maria traded tips when Williams returned to play at Wimbledon this year at the age of 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 baby went there,” Maria said. “It’s great that Serena is still playing tennis with the baby.”
Maria said her main role model as a tennis-playing mother was Kim Clijsters, a Belgian who is now permanently retired but has won three Grand Slam singles titles since giving birth to daughter Jada in 2008.
“I was one of the first after Kim,” Maria said. “She was my inspiration and I hope I can inspire others.”
Clijsters, 39, a mother of three, watched Wimbledon on Tuesday. “It’s amazing to see,” she said of Maria’s unexpected success.
Marys travel the world, but they don’t have to leave home to be international.
At home, Tatiana Maria speaks German to her children, while Charles-Edouard, a former professional from France who participated in the satellite tour, speaks French. His mother, a frequent visitor, speaks to her grandchildren in her native Spanish, and Charlotte attends an online academy whose primary language is English.
“Charlotte speaks four languages,” Charles-Edouard Marie said.
She is also a promising and enthusiastic tennis player who is coached mostly by her father, but she is often coached by her mother as well. She even warms it up before matches, although not at Wimbledon this year. Surprisingly, their frequent practice not only helped Charlotte in the game.
“We have a court at home, and every day during the quarantine and the pandemic, Tatyana trained with her,” Charles-Edouard said. “And that was really a plus for Tatiana’s game because by showing things to Charlotte she had to go back to the basics and it freshened up her game and she built it. That’s one of the reasons she plays so much better than before.”
Maria won the WTA 250 event in Bogotá, Colombia this season on clay: her second main tour singles title. Another came to Mallorca in 2018 on grass, which foreshadowed Wimbledon.
She has a strong, relatively flat first serve, and her ability to hit hard from both flanks keeps the ball particularly low on the grass. Because of this, it is more difficult for opponents to attack, and Maria neutralized powerful resistance here, upsetting three seeded players: No. 1. 26 Sorana Kirstya from Romania, no. 5 Maria Sakkari from Greece and no. 12 Elena Ostapenko from Latvia.
Niemeyer, who made her debut at Wimbledon, also had a large and varied weapon despite only finishing 97th. Watching her wrestle on court with Maria often felt like you were stepping into a tennis time machine with both players batting and attacking the net, with Niemeyer often pitching, volleying, and hitting overhead behind the head as Maria throws high, often beautifully. awnings installed.
Niemeyer seemed confident, leading 4-2 in the third set, but Maria kept wringing her hands and improvising on the run to close the gap. She saved a break point at 5–5 and then held the score to 6–5 after earning cheering from most of the crowd. She interrupted Niemeyer’s serve and completed her most significant victory.
A few hours later, Jabeur closed her own at Wimbledon. Next up: a surprise semi-final against her barbecue buddy.
“She is one of the examples that I would like the players to look up to,” Jabeur said of Maria. “Because she really suffered playing and winning rounds at Grand Slams, now look at her. Wimbledon semi-finalist after having two children. It’s really an amazing story.”