Tatjana Maria and Jule Niemeier share these three things: Birth in the country of Germany (Bad Saulgau and Dortmund, respectively), a Hologic WTA Tour ranking hovering around 100, separated by only six spots, and a place opposite each other in Tuesday’s highly improbable Wimbledon quarterfinals. And yet, they have carved vastly different swaths in this world.
They’ve never played each other at the tour level. They played on the same German Bundesliga club team, but say they don’t know each other well at all. Maria, nearly 35, mother of two young daughters and a Palm Beach, Florida resident, is in her 35th Grand Slam event and into her first quarter. Niemeier, only 22, still lives in Germany and is playing in her second Grand Slam main draw.
The winner will find herself lined up against the favorite to win the title, No.3 Ons Jabeur, or a third unseeded player, Marie Bouzkova. Grand Slam champion Tracy Austin said in her BBC commentary that this is the most wide open she’s seen Wimbledon’s bottom half of the draw for the quarters.
Here’s a look at those two quarters from the bottom half of the draw, with all four players at career-best or career-equaling Grand Slam berths:
No.3 Ons Jabeur vs. Marie Bouzkova
The fun-loving Tunisian is the only one of these four quarterfinalists who has actually been here – now twice. Last year’s romp took her through, in order, Venus Williams, Garbiñe Muguruza and Iga Swiatek before falling to Aryna Sabalenka. This year, the herd of major contenders has thinned considerably. Simona Halep, on the other side of the draw, is the only former Wimbledon champion left.
Jabeur was a 7-6 (9), 6-4 winner over No.24 Elise Mertens in a thrilling match that revealed all the facets of her eclectic game. The serve, featuring five aces and zero double faults, was pristine. The forehand bailed her out in the first-set tiebreak and she won 21 of 27 points at net. She’s won all eight sets she’s played.
“When I’m serving better and good, especially the first serve, that helps me get the points that I want to have,” Jabeur said in her post-match press conference. “It’s not easy sometimes to kind of play the slices that they make you play. With my hands, I think it helps me a lot to go forward to the net and finish the ball.
“I think one of the things that really helps me, I think most of the players would say that, you don’t know what to expect as a shot from me. I can really hit hard, I can really change the rhythm, I can really slice. That's tricky.”
After a shock loss in the first round at Roland Garros, Jabeur has won all nine of her matches on grass, going back to the title in Berlin two weeks ago.
Bouzkova, 23, defeated Bad Homburg champion Caroline Garcia 7-5, 6-2 to make her first major quarterfinal. She is currently the sixth-ranked player from the Czech Republic, behind the more familiar names of Karolina Pliskova, Barbora Krejcikova and Petra Kvitova. She’s ranked No.66, but has been terrific on the grass; Wimbledon is now the only major in which she doesn’t have a losing record. In 13 previous majors, she had never been past the third round.
“If you would tell me before the tournament started I would be in the quarters, I probably wouldn’t believe you,” Bouzkova said. “Since the first match it has been really tough journey for me. I have been feeling really many emotions. I’m just really proud right now that I've been able to handle everything the way I have and just enjoy the moment.”
It’s especially gratifying for Bouzkova, considering how the last major went. She was set to play Mertens in the second round but tested positive for COVID-19 and was forced to withdraw.
This will be the first meeting between the two.
“Ons is one of the most talented on the tour,” Bouzkova said. “She can basically do anything, mix up the game so well. Many drop shots. Her game is really fun. Ons is tricky to play for sure on grass with all the spins that she can do. Obviously I’ll be there to make a lot of balls back, try to play my game, as well. I’ll try to be aggressive.”
Jabeur said she loves the way Bouzkova plays.
“Marie, really amazing to see her winning,” she said. “It’s going to be a tough battle because I know she’s such a fighter. She’s everywhere, brings every ball. It’s going to be tricky. But I think my game could really bother her.”
Tatjana Maria vs. Jule Niemeier
Maria was a 5-7, 7-5, 7-5 winner over No.12 Jelena Ostapenko, saving two match points in the process. Niemeier defeated Heather Watson 6-2, 6-4. Maria – who was outside the top 250 as recently as March – is ranked No.103, while Niemeier is at No.97.
Back in May, Niemeier qualified at Roland Garros – only to lose her first major main-draw match to Sloane Stephens. Fast forward six weeks and she’s suddenly 4-0 at the All-England Club, where she lost in the third round of qualifying a year ago.
“I just wanted to win my first round after losing in Paris,” Niemeier said. “Now, being in the quarterfinal in Wimbledon, I don’t know, I’m speechless. It just feels not real.”
These are not accidental tourists among the last eight at the All England Club. They haven’t let someone else do their heavy lifting. Niemeier, who crashed the top 100 for the first time in May, stared down No.2 seed Anett Kontaveit in the second round – and handily won, 6-4, 6-0. Maria took out No.5 Maria Sakkari 6-3, 7-5 and then Ostapenko.
The financial implications of Tuesday's showdown are staggering. Both players have earned $380,000 for reaching the quarters. The winner of their match will get $636,000. Niemeier, for example, has already more than doubled her career earnings. A victory would give Maria roughly one-sixth of her career earnings.
Tatiana Maria into the quarter finals of Wimbledon. Let’s go mama ❤️— Kim Clijsters (@Clijsterskim) July 3, 2022
Part of Maria’s pre-match routine involves hitting balls with her 8-year-old daughter Charlotte. “I think she knows that we are playing a Grand Slam, and she knows how important this tournament is,” Maria said. “Doesn’t matter how old you are, doesn’t matter how many kids you have, you just have to keep going and to believe in yourself.”
Said Niemeier, “She’s a tricky player. She’s using the slice on the forehand, on the backhand. She’s playing drop shots. She’s, let’s say, not a usual woman tennis player.”