Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Maria and Niemeier play their hearts out and put on a spectacular show at Wimbledon

Sometimes a match has potential greatness written all over it, but--too often--the match itself turns out to be disappointing. The Wimbledon quarterfinal played between Tatjana Maria and Jule Niemeier had the potential to be vastly entertaining and well played, and the two German players saw to it that that potential was met at every turn. To add to the drama, Maria is a 34-year-old mother of two, and Niemeier is playing in her first major main draw. The two countrywomen had never played each other before.

So adept were Maria and Niemeier at navigating the grass on the Number 1 Court, there were times when my mind's eye flashed back to the days of Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova slicing, smashing and lobbing each other without mercy on the Wimbledon lawns.

The momentum, as one might expect, shifted constantly in this match, which was chock full of both strategy and athleticism. The spirit of another German, Angie Kerber, was present, as both players found outrageous angles over and over, and both players displayed the speed necessary to negotiate those angles. Niemeier approached the net 74 times, Maria 40 times.

As one might also expect, the match went to three sets. Niemeier took the first set, 6-4, and Maria took the second, 6-2. The third set was a thrill ride from the first point. At 5-6, duece, the two women played a rally of such skill and intensity, that Maria took a spill at the net and wound up rolling on the grass.

A third set tiebreak would have been the perfect way to end this match, but it wasn't to be. Serving at 5-6 in the third, Niemeier suddenly looked a bit shaky. Her opponent, who--by this time--had survived coming from behind in every match she'd played (and had saved a couple of match points in the round of 16), was ready. Maria broke Niemeier at 15 and booked herself a spot in the semifinals.

In the second quarterfinal of the day, Marie Bouzkova and 3rd seed Ons Jabeur faced off for a chance to play Maria in the semifinals. Jabeur got off to a slow start, made even slower by the fact that Bouzkova came out blazing. The Czech player (you knew there would be one) took the first set 6-3, after which the sleeping giant awoke and won the next two sets 6-1 and 6-1. Jabeur has reached a point in her career in which she can think like a champion during stressful times, and that served her well today.

In other Wimbledon news, 2nd seeds Barbora Krejicikova and Katerina Siniakova and 4th seeds Lyudmyla Kichenok and Alona Ostabpenkos reached the semifinals in doubles today.

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