No one exemplifies the wonderfully disordered state of the Wimbledon draw’s bottom half like Tatjana Maria.
She’s the oldest player still in play, pushing 35, and the mother of two daughters. During her first maternity leave, a decade ago, she switched to a one-handed backhand and gave birth to Charlotte. The German came back to win a title in 2018, Mallorca, and then took a second leave, which produced Cecilia in 2021 and, earlier this year, a second title in Bogota.
On Friday she took down No.5 seed Maria Sakkari in straight sets to advance to the second week at the All England Club.
“I’m the first time in the last 16, so that’s already amazing,” Maria said. “To win against Sakkari today, yeah, it’s pretty awesome.”
Five of the remaining eight players in the bottom half of the draw are unseeded and ranked outside the top 50. Two – Maria (No.103) and Heather Watson (No.121) – aren’t among the top 100. Gone are Sakkari, No.7 Danielle Collins, No.10 Emma Raducanu, No.14 Belinda Bencic and No.23 Beatriz Haddad Maia, the winner in Nottingham, Birmingham and a semifinalist in Eastbourne.
Here’s a look at Sunday’s four Round of 16 matches:
No.12 Jelena Ostapenko vs. Tatjana Maria
There’s nothing quite like the Ostapenko Experience. She dropped the first set to Irina-Camelia Begu 3-6, then won 12 of the last 14 games, including a string of nine straight.
The whole thing required only 90 minutes; by comparison, the third set of Harmony Tan’s first-round upset of Serena Williams went 78 minutes. And so, Ostapenko is into the second week at Wimbledon for the third time, but the first in four years. She reached the quarterfinals in 2017 after winning at Roland Garros, before running into five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams. A year later, eventual winner Angelique Kerber knocked her out in the semifinals.
Ostapenko, who struck 45 winners in the second round against Yanina Wickmayer, finished with 28 against Begu, balanced by 27 unforced errors. The numbers in the last two sets: a cleaned-up 19 winners to 11 unforced errors.
Maria was a surprise 6-3, 7-5 winner over Sakkari, who has yet to get past the third round here. A round earlier, Maria trailed Sorana Cirstea 0-3 in the third set and won seven of nine games. It was her first Top 50 victory in two years.
She credited a 4-6, 6-7 (2) first-round loss to Sakkari at this year’s Australian Open with giving her the confidence to win the sequel.
“I saw that I was super close, and I had my chances also in Australia,” Maria told reporters afterward. “Yeah, it gives you always the confidence if you know your opponent and you played already before. I knew that I have my chances. If I play clever and good, I can win this match.”
These two have never played.
No.3 Ons Jabeur vs. No.24 Elise Mertens
This one features two of the remaining three seeds in this half.
Jabeur, a 6-2, 6-3 winner over French teenager Diane Parry, continues to play like one of the favorites, and she’s played like someone with her hair on fire. Jabeur has yet to drop a set (and only 13 games in three matches) and her match times are dizzying: 55 minutes, 59 minutes, 68 minutes.
Her first career title, a year ago at Birmingham (which led to a quarterfinal run at Wimbledon) was the catalyst for her wins this year in Madrid and Berlin and her career-high No.2 ranking.
“I think that title opened a great path for me,” said Jabeur, a 27-year-old from Tunisia. “I was waiting for that one for a long time. I knew I could always play good on grass – any other surface, to be honest with you.
“The wait was over. I wanted to be a Top 10 player, then I achieved that. I wanted to win more titles, and it’s still coming. Some goals keep coming up. I try to check the list every time.”
Meanwhile, Mertens edged No.15 Angelique Kerber 6-4, 7-5 with fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters cheering her on. This is the 18th consecutive Grand Slam in which Mertens has reached at least the third round. Fun fact: Mertens is already a three-time Grand Slam champion – in doubles. Last year she won the Australian Open with Aryna Sabalenka and Wimbledon with Hsieh Su-Wei
Mertens saved two match points in her second-round match against Panna Udvardy, a match that ran 195 minutes over two days. She hasn’t beaten a Top 20 player in more than a year but can correct that issue against Jabeur. In their only previous meeting, Mertens was a 6-3, 7-5 winner over Jabeur in the third round of last year’s US Open.
“She’s an amazing player, has been playing very good the past months," Mertens said. "But, yeah, I’m here also.”
Heather Watson vs. Jule Niemeier
This is completely uncharted territory for both players. Niemeier had never won a Grand Slam main draw match, and now the 22-year-old German has collected three. Watson, in her 12th appearance in her home country, had never been through to the second week of a major. One of them is going to get to the Wimbledon quarters.
We are into the second week of Wimbles!!!💜💚 pic.twitter.com/bO6ZO253pl— Heather Watson (@HeatherWatson92) July 2, 2022
Watson was a 7-6(6), 6-2 winner over Kaja Juvan and was asked afterward – following the nautical theme of this capsule – if she thought that perhaps that second-week ship had sailed.
“No chance,” Watson said emphatically. “I wouldn’t still be playing if I thought that ship had sailed. I’ve been in the third round quite a few times here at Wimbledon [2012, 2015, 2017, 2022] and Australian Open.
“So, yeah, I was just sort of waiting for it to happen. I waited long enough, I think, and did it in dramatic fashion.”
Niemeier defeated Lesia Tsurenko 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. Her first Grand Slam main draw was this year’s French Open, where she qualified before losing to Sloane Stephens.
She knows the Wimbledon crowd will be behind Watson.
“The atmosphere will be incredible,” Niemeier said, “so I’m really looking forward to the match.”
Watson holds a 1-0 advantage, going back to a tight first-round win in Monterrey in March, 6-3, 2-6, 7-6(4).
Caroline Garcia vs. Marie Bouzkova
When the draw came out, this match projected to a meeting between Collins and Raducanu, but that failed to account for the fine grass skills of Garcia and Bouzkova.
Bouzkova was a 6-2, 6-3 winner over Alison Riske-Amritraj, while Garcia got past No.33 Zhang Shuai 7-6(3), 7-6(5).
In 13 previous majors, Bouzkova had never been past the second round. Garcia, who upset Raducanu in the second round, has reached one Grand Slam quarterfinal, at the 2017 French Open. She won the title recently in Bad Homburg and has now won eight consecutive matches on grass.