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Close Friends Ons Jabeur, Tatjana Maria to Meet in Wimbledon Semifinal


WIMBLEDON, England — A working mother of two, Tatjana Maria had the kid care under control on Tuesday.

As she and Charles-Edouard, her husband and coach, headed to No. 1 Court for the most important match of her profession, their daughters, 8-year-old Charlotte and 1-year-old Cecilia, were happily ensconced within the Wimbledon day care center, considered one of Charlotte’s favorite spots on tour.

By the point the family reunited, Maria was a Wimbledon semifinalist.

“I’m so glad that Charlotte is sufficiently old to grasp all of this,” Maria said after her gutsy, resourceful 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 victory over her 22-year-old German compatriot Jule Niemeier.

There have been greater shocks in women’s tennis: see the British teenager Emma Raducanu winning the U.S. Open women’s singles title as a qualifier in her first visit last yr.

But Maria’s run has actually been a serious and moving surprise. She is 34 and gave birth to Cecilia little greater than a yr ago. She arrived at Wimbledon ranked 103rd in singles and having lost in the primary round in her last eight Grand Slam singles tournaments.

“I’ve got goose bumps throughout,” she said after defeating Niemeier in some of the diverting matches of the ladies’s tournament, dropping her racket and covering her face with each hands after converting match point.

Maria, who lives together with her family in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., has a throwback game seemingly more in harmony with the twentieth century than the twenty first together with her heavy reliance on slice, including forehand slice, and a yen for the web.

But at this wild and sometimes wide-open Wimbledon, she is going to now face her close friend Ons Jabeur on Thursday for a spot in the ultimate. Jabeur, the No. 3 seed, defeated unseeded Marie Bouzkova, 3-6, 6-1, 6-1, on Centre Court on Tuesday.

“I really like Tatjana a lot, and her family is actually amazing,” Jabeur said. “She’s my barbecue buddy, so it’s going to be tough to play her obviously.”

That is uncharted territory for each, and Jabeur, a 27-year-old Tunisian with an attention grabbing all-court game, has quite a story of her own. She shall be the primary Arab woman to play in a Grand Slam singles semifinal and has turn out to be a logo of hope and recent possibilities in her region.

But Jabeur, a quarterfinalist at Wimbledon last yr, already has been in close range of such tennis success. Maria had not been past the third round in a Grand Slam singles tournament until now and had made it past the second round just once: at Wimbledon in 2015.

“I all the time believed that I actually have something inside,” Maria said. “I all the time believed on this, but to be now here on this spot. …”

Maria paused for a moment.

“One yr ago, I gave birth to my second daughter,” she said. “If any individual would tell me that one yr later you might be in a semifinal of Wimbledon, that’s crazy.”

Consider her husband crazy.

“In fact, it’s surprising to others, but I feel in my wife, and I tell her all the time that I do know she’s able to doing larger things,” he said in an interview in French on Tuesday that was often interrupted by congratulatory back slaps and handshakes from other players and coaches.

“Tatjana’s a warrior,” he continued. “From the primary to the last point, from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, she never gives anyone a free point. That’s her strength, but she’s also capable of put all of it in its proper perspective because we have now the family.”

Maria is the primary mother to advance this far at Wimbledon since Serena Williams, one other Palm Beach Gardens resident, reached the ultimate in 2019. But Maria was touring with a baby in tow well before Williams, whose daughter, Olympia, is 4. Williams and Maria exchanged suggestions when Williams returned to play at Wimbledon this yr at age 40 after nearly a yr away from the tour.

“When Serena arrived, I told her the crèche was already open, because she didn’t know, and her infant went over there,” Maria said. “It’s great that Serena’s still playing tennis with a baby.”

Maria said her essential role model as a tennis-playing mother was Kim Clijsters, the Belgian who’s now definitively retired but who won three Grand Slam singles titles after giving birth to her daughter Jada in 2008.

“I used to be considered one of the primary ones after Kim,” Maria said. “She was my inspiration, and I hope I can possibly be an inspiration to others.”

Clijsters, 39 and now a mother of three, was watching at Wimbledon on Tuesday. “Amazing to see,” she said of Maria’s unexpected success.

The Marias travel the world but don’t need to go away the home to be international.

At home, Tatjana Maria speaks German to their children and Charles-Edouard, a French former skilled who played on the satellite tour, speaks French. His mother, a frequent visitor, speaks her native language of Spanish to her grandchildren while Charlotte is enrolled in an internet academy whose primary language is English.

“Charlotte speaks 4 languages,” Charles-Edouard Maria said.

She can be a promising and enthusiastic tennis player, coached primarily by her father but additionally a frequent practice partner for her mother. She even warms her up before matches, although not at Wimbledon this yr. Surprisingly, their frequent practice sessions haven’t helped only Charlotte’s game.

“We’ve got a court at the home, and day by day throughout the lockdown and the pandemic Tatjana trained together with her,” Charles-Edouard said. “And it’s really been a plus for Tatjana’s game, because by showing things to Charlotte, she had to return to the fundamentals and that has refreshed her game, and he or she has built on it. It’s considered one of the explanations she’s playing significantly better than before.”

Maria won a WTA 250 event in Bogotá, Colombia, this season on clay: her second singles title on the essential tour. The opposite one got here in Majorca in 2018 on grass, which was foreshadowing for this Wimbledon.

She has a powerful, relatively flat first serve, and her ability to hit heavily sliced strokes off each wings keeps the ball particularly low on grass. That makes it harder for opponents to attack, and Maria has defused some powerful opposition here, upsetting three seeded players: No. 26 Sorana Cirstea of Romania, No. 5 Maria Sakkari of Greece and No. 12 Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia.

Niemeier, making her Wimbledon debut, had big and varied weapons, too, despite being ranked just 97th. Watching her all-court tussle with Maria often felt like entering a tennis time machine with each players chipping and charging the web and Niemeier regularly serving and volleying and hitting overhead after overhead as Maria threw up towering, often beautifully placed lobs.

Niemeier appeared to have command, going up, 4-2, within the third set, but Maria kept scrapping and improvising on the run to shut the gap. She saved a break point at 5-5 after which held to 6-5 after a scrambling point that earned a standing ovation from much of the gang. She broke Niemeier’s serve to shut out her most vital victory.

A number of hours later, Jabeur closed out her own at Wimbledon. Next up: a surprise semifinal against her barbecue buddy.

“She’s considered one of the examples I wish players would look as much as,” Jabeur said of Maria. “Because she really suffered to play and win rounds within the Grand Slams and now have a look at her. A Wimbledon semifinalist after having two babies. It’s a very amazing story.”

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