Just a year after maternity leave, Tatjana Maria of Germany extended her resurgent season with a big milestone at a Grand Slam event.
The 34-year-old mother of two reached the Round of 16 at a major for the first time in her career, topping No.5 seed Maria Sakkari of Greece 6-3, 7-5 at Wimbledon.
"The first time in the last 16, so that's already amazing," Maria said in her post-match press conference. "To win against Sakkari today, it's pretty awesome. I think I played a good match from the beginning to the end."
The upset on No.2 Court on Friday marks the fifth Top 10 win of Maria's career. Maria had not won a match in a Grand Slam main draw since 2018, but has picked up three victories already this week.
Maria had reached the third round at a Slam just once before, at 2015 Wimbledon. But her slice-filled game propelled her to another big run in her 10th appearance at SW19, and she went one step further this time with her 90-minute upset of Sakkari.
Back for more: Former Top 50 player Maria returned to 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 World No.103, bolstered by winning her second career title in Bogota as a qualifier in April.
Sakkari had previously beaten Maria in the first round of this year's Australian Open, but Maria got revenge for that loss, hitting 19 winners and just 12 unforced errors on Friday. Sakkari's 28 winners were overwhelmed by 29 unforced errors.
"The match against Sakkari at the Australian Open gave me some confidence because I saw that I was super close," Maria said. "I knew that I have my chances. If I play clever and good, I can win this match."
Comeback queen: Maria had already claimed a big win in the second round on Wednesday, when she battled back from a double-break down in the third set to beat No.26 seed Sorana Cirstea for her first Top 50 win in over two years.
Once again, Maria had to fight back from a dire deficit in a set. Sakkari led 5-2 in the second set, and the Greek held two set points at 5-4 to level the match. But Maria blasted a group of strong serves to hold on for 5-5, and the German took the next two games to complete the upset.
Maria will face a third seeded player in a row when she takes on No.12 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 was not a perfect day for Germany, though, as No.24 seed Elise Mertens of Belgium topped 2018 Wimbledon champion and No.15 seed Angelique Kerber, 6-4, 7-5 on No.1 Court. Mertens picked up her first Top 20 win in over a year with the victory.
Mertens had beaten German No.1 Kerber in their only previous clash at WTA 1000 Doha in 2019, en route to her biggest career title. The Belgian knocked out former World No.1 Kerber once again, this time in 1 hour and 20 minutes on the lawns of London.
Mertens was coming off a whisker-thin win 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 any lingering effects from that marathon, converting five of her seven break points and hitting 18 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, losing the first set, then down two match points," Mertens said afterward. "Playing a third set yesterday, so I kind of feel like I'm on court nonstop.
"That's also a good sign because I haven't had those matches in the last couple weeks. I felt like, 'OK, let's get some energy, some rallies, some matches in.' I think that really helped me for today, too, to know that even when you're down that you can come back, mentally being tough."
Mertens, who came back from a break down in the second set 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, at last year's US Open.