Tatjana Maria dropped the racket, put her hands over her mouth, and when she fell on Jule Niemeier’s arm at the net, she shed tears of joy. After a quarter-final that was initially nervous and ended up being dramatic and emotional, the two German Wimbledon surprises went their separate ways. Maria will play for a place in the final after her next comeback on Thursday, while Niemeier travels home after her memorable debut at the All England Club and the biggest success of her young career so far.
After 2:18 hours, Maria converted her first match point to 4: 6, 6: 2, 7: 5, husband Charles Edouard cheered in her box, the daughters Charlotte (8) and Cecilia (1) should be little stars in childcare in the training park have been. Her mom in the semi-finals of the most important tennis tournament in the world: nobody expected that.
At the age of 34, just 15 months after the second birth, Maria is the fifth German to play for the Wimbledon final. Steffi Graf had won the title seven times here, Angelique Kerber triumphed in 2018, Sabine Lisicki reached the final in 2013, and Julia Görges also made it to the semifinals four years ago.
So now Maria – and not Jule Niemeier, who was considered an easy favorite. And in the beginning it actually looked like she could continue her wondrous journey. Maria’s dreaded slice, that disgusting undercut that had previously driven her well-known opponents to despair, didn’t bounce off as sharply as usual, and although Niemeier served up a number of double faults, Maria ran in vain after an early break in the first set.
Niemeier gets £310,000 in prize money
It was only when she lost her second serve that she found her way into the match and turned a 0-1 deficit into a 4-1 lead. Maria had shown comeback qualities even after her two pregnancies. “I always believed that I could do it,” she said before the match: “It doesn’t matter how old you are or how many children you have. If you believe in yourself, you can do it.”
With this attitude she had thrown out the former French Open winner Jelena Ostapenko in the round of 16, although she was clearly behind and only one point away from the end. She also fought back against Niemeier and managed to equalize the set. Turning triumphantly towards her box, Niemeier slinked to her bench. She had lost control, less and less was working.
She has many options in her game, coach Kas raved about the “Jule Niemeier things” that you can’t learn. Serve-and-volley is part of it, the fine blade with exact stops, but also a cracking forehand. She showed all that again and again, but also nerves. Maria caught up again in the third set after 2:4 – and thanks to her fighting heart she can continue to dream of the title.
Niemeier can console herself with £310,000 in prize money, doubling her previous earnings. She does not get points for the world rankings, which were withdrawn from the tournament after the exclusion of Russian and Belarusian players. For the main draw at the US Open, number 97 in the ranking therefore needs good results in the coming weeks. Her surprising run at Wimbledon should give Niemeier the confidence to do so.