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Wimbledon 2022: Tatjana Maria fights back to beat Jule Niemeier, seals maiden semifinals spot

London, July 5 (IANS) Germany’s Tatjana Maria came up with another fighting display as she fought back from 2-4 down in the final set to get the better of compatriot Jule Niemeier in an all-German encounter at Wimbledon to seal a maiden Grand Slam semifinal spot on Tuesday.

After losing the first set 4-6, Maria came back strongly to win the second 6-2 but was facing ouster as she was trailing 2-4 in the decider but came back strongly to win the match 4-6, 6-2, 7-5.

Ranked outside the world’s top 100, the 34-year-old mother of two is proving to be the best escape artist in the draw in the grass-court tournament, winning four three-setters on her way to the semifinals.

Twice already at The Championships, Maria had demonstrated an ability to get herself out of tricky situations — she came back from 0-3 down in the final set of her second-round encounter with Romania’s Sorana Cirstea, and also saved two match points in the fourth round against Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko.

Armed with a slice forehand and extraordinary resilience and self-belief, Maria repeatedly drew gasps from the crowd with her defensive scrambling, seemingly able to get anything that her racquet touched back into play.

Maria, who gave birth to her second daughter, Cecilia, just 15 months ago, trailed by a break in both second and third sets, is contesting her 46th Grand Slam (including qualifying). Before this fortnight, she had never passed the second round in any of them. The 34-year-old becomes the eighth player born in 1987 to reach the last four of a major. The first was 17-year-old Maria Sharapova at Wimbledon in 2004.

No.103-ranked Maria, who hit her career-high of No.46 in November 2017 after returning from her first maternity leave in 2014, is also the fourth-lowest ranked player to reach the Wimbledon semifinals since 1984. She follows Serena Williams (No.181 in 2018), Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (No.134 in 1999) and Zheng Jie (No.133 in 2008).

Bidding to become the first player to reach the Wimbledon semifinals on her main-draw debut since Alexandra Stevenson in 1999, the 22-year-old Niemeier took advantage of a nervy start by Maria to break immediately and did not face a break point during the whole first set as she won 6-4.

Niemeier raised her game at the start of the second set, capturing Maria’s serve again after a series of winners including a knifed backhand volley, a perfectly-judged lob and then a pinpoint backhand pass.

However, double faults would be a Niemeier vulnerability throughout. She committed 11 in total, and the eighth opened the door for Maria to break back in the very next game as she went on to win the second set, according to a report on the WTA Tour website.

The deciding set saw Niemeier clean up her double faults and strike first, breaking for 3-2 after Maria uncharacteristically lost control of both her forehand drive and backhand slice. But leading 4-3, Niemeier’s net-rushing flipped from winning strategy to weakness. Two volley errors enabled Maria to level at 4-4.

Maria came within two points of the match at 5-4 after luring Niemeier into consecutive overhead errors, only for Niemeier to raise her game at the net to level at 5-5.

At 5-5, deuce, Maria came out on top of one of the best points of the whole tournament, yanking Niemeier up and down the court with an array of volleys before finding a delicate touch for the winner. She took this momentum into the final game, finding some of her most biting slices to draw errors in response from Niemeier. Down match point, one final serve-and-volley attempt from the younger player failed to pay off, with her netted result putting Maria through into an unlikely major semifinal.

–IANS

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