Tatjana Maria's trailblazing run at Wimbledon continued in thrilling fashion as the No.103-ranked mother-of-two saved two match points en route to ousting No.12 seed Jelena Ostapenko 5-7, 7-5, 7-5 to reach her first Grand Slam quarterfinal.
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Maria trailed 4-1 in the second set and 2-0 in the third before pulling off a 2-hour, 8-minute comeback. The 34-year-old had never reached the second week of a major before this week, but has scored her career-best result at this level less than a year after returning from her second maternity leave.
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Maria also becomes the oldest woman to make her Wimbledon quarterfinal debut in the Open Era, and just the seventh to reach this stage after turning 34.
The German had previously achieved her best ranking at No.46, as well as winning her first Hologic WTA Tour title at Mallorca 2018, as a mother-of-one. Her first daughter, Charlotte, was born in December 2013, and her second, Cecilia, in April 2021. Maria resumed professional tennis at the end of July last year, and in April this year lifted her second WTA trophy in Bogota.
Magical moment for Maria 💫— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) July 3, 2022
After returning from maternity leave less than a year ago, Tatjana Maria reaches her first Grand Slam QF#Wimbledon pic.twitter.com/dCv8QXelTY
Twists and turns: An extreme stylistic contrast between Ostapenko's all-out aggression and Maria's web of slices and absurd defence resulted in a classic contest. Plot twists featured heavily as momentum swung back and forth: Maria led 3-1 in the first set, only for Ostapenko to seize control and win 10 of the next 13 games to lead 4-1 in the second.
Maria levelled at 4-4, but superb net play from Ostapenko saw the Latvian halt the run of games against her to hold for 5-4. She advanced to double match point thanks to some fearsome returning, only for Maria to stave off both with a one-two punch and a service winner. As Ostapenko's backhand collapsed, Maria broke again then fired a pair of aces to force a decider.
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Having erased an early break deficit, Maria's resilience paid off at the climax of the match. At 4-4, Ostapenko squandered three game points with unforced errors, then sent a smash over the baseline down break point. But the former World No.5 hit back in the blink of an eye, firing a series of winners to win the next six points.
Ostapenko was unable to see out the hold at 5-5, though. A clever short return from Maria drew another error down break point, and the unseeded player made no mistake serving for the win a second time. A service winner sealed her second match point, and a date with German compatriot Jule Niemeier in the last eight.
"The best thing in the world"@Maria_Tatjana talks about her pride of being a mum ❤️#Wimbledon pic.twitter.com/mfLANQ9Lns— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) July 3, 2022
By the numbers: As might have been expected, Ostapenko dominated both the winners and unforced errors columns, tallying 52 and 57 respectively. Maria came up with 23 winners to 15 unforced errors -- but of the latter, 11 came in the first set. In the second set, Maria managed to reduce her error total to a remarkable zero, and in the third committed only four.
Maria's serve was also crucial as she complemented her soft touch in rallies with formidable power to start the point. She fired down nine aces -- including three in a row at one point -- and conceded only three points behind her first serve in each of the second and third sets.
Maria on what's behind her unique accomplishments: "There's always the belief that I can do it. I mean, that's why I came back after the first one. It's why I came back after the second one. If not, if I don't believe I can do these things, then I would not be here. So there's always this believing and keep going and improving and trying my best at the end.
"It's also really hard work. It's not coming from nowhere, let's say. We are outside on the court every day. We are working. Yeah, like I said, we are trying to improve. But maybe in myself there's this feeling now, OK, I can do it, I can go for it. Sometimes little things can change a whole match. It's really little parts."