Wimbledon 2022: Surprise semi-finalist Maria balancing tennis and nappy changing

Not many players would be changing nappies hours after reaching a Wimbledon semi-final but Tatjana Maria wouldn’t have it any other way.

World No.103 Maria would have been an unlikely pick to be the last German standing at the tournament this year, but victory over compatriot Jule Niemeier made her just that.

In only the third all-German women’s Slam quarter-final in the open era, the two delivered a pulsating contest but experience ultimately trumped youth, 34-year-old Maria rallying from breaks down in the second and third sets to prevail 4-6 6-2 7-5.

In an era full of surprise Grand Slam semi-finalists and finalists in the women’s game, Maria – who had only reached the third round once in 34 previous major appearances – is definitely one of them.

Yet, no matter what happens in the coming days, nothing will define her more than her role as mum to eight-year-old Charlotte and one-year-old Cecilia.

“I think for me that’s the most important thing in my life, to be a mum of my two kids. Nothing will change this,” said the world No. 103.

“I’m here, I’m in the semi-final of Wimbledon, it’s crazy, but I’m still a mum. After this I will go out over there and I will see my kids and I will do the same thing that I do every single day.

“I will change her [Cecilia’s] Pampers, I mean, everything is normal. I try to keep things normal as much as possible, because that was what makes me proudest – to be a mum.

“I always believed that I have something inside, that I can do this. I always believed in this, but to be now here in this spot –  like I said, one year ago I gave birth to my second daughter – if somebody would tell me one year later you are in a semi-final of Wimbledon, that’s crazy.

“I play tennis, I want to do my best, that’s all that I want. But my kids are the priority.”

While Maria dreams of becoming the first woman since Evonne Goolagong in 1980 to win Wimbledon post-pregnancy, her semi-final opponent is a familiar face chasing her own history.

Maria has previously described Ons Jabeur as ‘part of the family’ and prior to the tournament posted a heart-warming photo of the Tunisian with her youngest daughter on social media.

After her 3-6 6-1 6-1 win over Marie Bouzkova, Jabeur is also in a Grand Slam semi-final for the very first time – though, as the third seed, her run is perhaps less surprising.

Jabeur is one of tennis’ greatest trailblazers; she is already a heroine in the Arab world, and the highest ranked African player in history.

Two more victories at the All England Club would create even more history and catapult her to superstardom, and with 101 ranking spots between the two the 27-year-old will be the heavy favourite to reach Saturday’s final – not that she is underestimating one of her closest friends.

“She [Maria] had a really tough draw, I mean, winning against [Jelena] Ostapenko, winning against [Maria] Sakkari. She’s played really well, I knew she could play really good on grass,” said Jabeur.

“Obviously it’s tough to play her and I was joking with Charlotte, I was telling her: ‘Are you going to support me or your mum?’ I’m trying to turn all the kids to my side, using the family!

“They are really nice. I’m really happy for her that she’s getting what she deserves. I know she struggled a lot. It’s not easy coming back after having two babies. It’s going to be a great match between us, with a lot of respect, for sure.

“Maybe we will not be friends for two hours – I don’t know how long the match will go – and be friends again at the end.”

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