Just a year after maternity leave, Germany’s Tatjana Maria extended her resurgent season with a major milestone at a Grand Slam event.
The 34-year-old mother-of-two reached the round of 16 at a Major for the first time in her career, beating Greece’s Maria Sakkari 6-3, 7-5 at Wimbledon.
“First time in the last 16, that’s amazing,” Maria said in her post-match press conference. “To win against Sakkari today is pretty awesome. I think I played a good match from start to finish.”
Friday’s surprise second place finish marks Maria’s fifth top 10 win of her career. Maria hadn’t won a match in a Grand Slam peloton since 2018, but has already had three wins this week.
Maria had only reached the third round at a Slam once before, at Wimbledon in 2015. But her slice-filled game propelled her to another big run in her 10th appearance at SW19, and this time she took her 90-minute upset against Sakkari one step further.
Back for more: Former top 50 player Maria returned to the tour in July 2021 after giving birth to her second daughter, Cecilia, in April last year (her eldest daughter, Charlotte, was born in 2013). She has since risen to world No. 103, bolstered by winning her second career title in Bogota as a qualifier in April.
Sakkari had previously beaten Maria in the first round of this year’s Australian Open, but Maria retaliated for that defeat by recording 19 winners and just 12 unforced errors on Friday. Sakkari’s 28 winners were overwhelmed by 29 unforced errors.
“The match against Sakkari at the Australian Open gave me some confidence because I saw that I was super close,” said Maria. “I knew I had my chances. If I play smart and play well, I can win this match.”
Comeback Queen: Maria had already clinched a big win in the second round on Wednesday, when she fought back after a double-breakdown in the third set to beat No. 26-seeded Sorana Cirstea for her first top-50 win in over two years .
Once again, Maria had to defend herself against a bad deficit in one set. Sakkari led 5-2 in the second set and the Greek held two set points at 5-4 to level the match. But Maria hit a group of strong serves to hold 5-5 and the German took the next two games to complete the upset.
Maria will face a third seeded player in a row when she takes on number 12 Jelena Ostapenko in the round of 16. It will be Maria’s first meeting against 2017 French Open winner Ostapenko, who was also a Wimbledon semi-finalist in 2018.
Mertens rejects Kerber
It wasn’t a perfect day for Germany, however, as No. 24 Elise Mertens of Belgium defeated the 2018 Wimbledon champion and No. 15 Angelique Kerber 6-4, 7-5 at No. 1. With the win, Mertens clinched her first top 20 win in over a year.
Mertens had beaten German No. 1 Kerber in their only previous duel at WTA 1000 Doha in 2019 en route to her biggest career title. The Belgian knocked out former world No. 1 Kerber again, this time in 1 hour and 20 minutes on the London lawns.
Mertens had achieved a razor-thin victory in the preliminary round, saving two match points against Panna Udvardy in a match that spanned Wednesday night and Thursday.
But Mertens seemed unaffected by any lingering effects of that marathon, converting five of her seven break points and beating 18 winners to 14 unforced errors. Kerber’s 16 winners were outnumbered with 28 unforced errors.
“It was a very difficult match [in the] second round, lost the first set, then lost two match points,” Mertens said afterwards. “Played a third set yesterday, so I feel like I’m on the court non-stop.
“That’s also a good sign because I haven’t had those games for the past few weeks. I was like, ‘Okay, let’s get some energy, some rallies, some games.’ I think that helped me a lot for today, too, knowing that even if you’re down, you can come back and be mentally tough.”
Mertens, who came back from a defeat against Kerber in the second set, meets Ons Jabeur from Tunisia US Open in the Belgian’s second trip to the Wimbledon round of 16.