London, Jul 3 (IANS): Tatjana Maria continued her trailblazing run at Wimbledon, stunning former French Open champion and No 12 seed Jelena Ostapenko in three sets in a thrilling encounter to reach her maiden Grand Slam quarterfinal here on Sunday.
Maria, the 103-ranked mother-of-two, came back from 1-4 down in the second set and saved two match points before winning a two-hour, 8-minute clash 5-7, 7-5, 7-5 to oust Ostapenko, who won the 2017 French Open title.
The 34-year-old German, who has never reached the third round in a Grand Slam, scored her career-best result at this level less than a year after returning from her second maternity leave.
Maria became the oldest woman to make her Wimbledon quarterfinal debut in the Open Era, and just the seventh to reach this stage after turning 34.
The German had previously achieved her best ranking at No.46, as well as won her first WTA Tour title at Mallorca 2018, as a mother-of-one. Her first daughter, Charlotte, was born in December 2013, and her second, Cecilia, in April 2021. Maria resumed professional tennis at the end of July last year, and in April this year lifted her second WTA trophy in Bogota, according to a report on the WTA Tour website.
"There's always the belief that I can do it. I mean, that's why I came back after the first one. It's why I came back after the second one. If not, if I don't believe I can do these things, then I would not be here. So there's always this believing and keep going and improving and trying my best at the end," Maria was quoted as saying by the WTA in a report.
"It's also really hard work. It's not coming from nowhere, let's say. We are outside on the court every day. We are working. Yeah, like I said, we are trying to improve. But maybe in myself, there's this feeling now, OK, I can do it, I can go for it. Sometimes little things can change a whole match. It's really little parts," she said.
It was a battle of contrast between Ostapenko's aggression and Maria's defence, which produced a classic contest on Sunday. Momentum swung back and forth as Maria led 3-1 in the first set, only for Ostapenko to seize control and win 10 of the next 13 games to lead 4-1 in the second.
Maria levelled at 4-4, but superb net play from Ostapenko saw the Latvian halt the run of games against her to hold for 5-4. She advanced to double match point thanks to some fearsome returning, only for Maria to stave off both with a one-two punch and a service winner. As Ostapenko's backhand collapsed, Maria broke again and then fired a pair of aces to force a decider.
Having erased an early break deficit, Maria's resilience paid off at the climax of the match. At 4-4, Ostapenko squandered three game points with unforced errors, then sent a smash over the baseline down break point. But the former World No.5 hit back in the blink of an eye, firing a series of winners to win the next six points, the report said.
Ostapenko was unable to see out the hold at 5-5, though. A clever short return from Maria drew another, and the unseeded player made no mistake serving for the win a second time. A service winner sealed her second match point and a date with German compatriot Jule Niemeier in the last eight.
Niemeier ended the hopes of the last British player remaining in the draw, Heather Watson, in an emphatic 6-2, 6-4 win to reach her first Grand Slam quarterfinal. This will be for the first time in 10 years that two Germans will play for semifinal berth at Wimbledon.
The World No.97 lost in the last round of qualifying at Wimbledon 12 months ago, and didn't make her major debut until last month at Roland Garros. In her Centre Court debut, the German showed no signs of nerves; she won five games in a row to win the first set, and won six of the last eight from 2-0 down in the second set.