LONDON: Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko serves to Tatjana Maria of Germany during their Wimbledon round-of-16 match at The All England Tennis Club on Sunday.—AFP
LONDON: Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko serves to Tatjana Maria of Germany during their Wimbledon round-of-16 match at The All England Tennis Club on Sunday.—AFP

LONDON: Germany’s Tatjana Maria continued her dream Wimbledon run when she fought from a set down and saved two match points to beat former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko 5-7, 7-5, 7-5 on Sunday and reach the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam for the first time.

It was the biggest career victory for the mother of two who returned to action from maternity leave just under a year ago. Maria, who was ranked outside the top 250 in March, said the victory was especially sweet given her breaks from the game.

“It makes me so proud to be a mum, that’s the best feeling in the world,” she said in an on-court interview.

“I love my two kids... to be able to do this together... It makes it really special.”

Maria made a solid start as the 25-year-old Ostapenko, who reached the semi-finals at the grasscourt major a year after her maiden Grand Slam title at Roland Garros in 2017, surrendered her serve early to trail 1-3.

But the Latvian immediately regained her composure to level the scores before switching gears to go ahead 6-5 and take the first set after world number 103 Maria made unforced errors on crucial points.

Maria, at 34 the oldest player left in the women’s draw, had impressed in her stunning straight sets-victory over fifth seed Maria Sakkari in the previous round and she hit back from 1-4 down in the next set before forcing a decider.

Having saved two match points in the second set at 4-5 and with the crowd firmly behind her, Maria capitalised on a mistake from 12th seed Ostapenko to go up 6-5 in a see-saw third set before sealing the match on serve.

Maria will play Jule Niemeier in the last eight after the German beat Briton Heather Watson 6-2, 6-4.

Niemeier, 22, used her big serve and skilled net play to great effect, appearing completely at ease despite the Centre Court crowd’s clear support for Watson, who looked tight and anxious. The up-and-coming German apologised for disappointing the crowd by beating a home favourite.

GREECE’S Stefanos Tsitsipas reacts during his third-round match against Nick Kyrgios of Australia.—Reuters
GREECE’S Stefanos Tsitsipas reacts during his third-round match against Nick Kyrgios of Australia.—Reuters

“I can’t believe it. I want to say sorry I had to kick out a British player today. The atmosphere was incredible...,” Niemeier, playing only her second Grand Slam tournament said.

Playing after Wimbledon staged a Centre Court centenary celebration including a parade of former champions, Niemeier was quickly into her stride, breaking 30-year-old Watson’s serve twice to win the first set.

Watson, playing the fourth round of a Grand Slam for the first time in 42 attempts, found some rhythm in the second set but, after she served two double faults and was broken in the seventh game, Niemeier’s stranglehold was complete.

The German, ranked 97 and playing at only her second Grand Slam tournament, reached the quarter-finals on her third match point when Watson put a forehand into the net.

“I was nervous — as soon as I stepped on the court I felt pretty confident so I just tried to focus on my game and play point by point. It went well,” Niemeier said.

NORRIE KEEPS BRITISH FLAG FLYING

In the men’s singles event, ninth seed Cameron Norrie kept the British flag flying by progressing to his maiden Grand Slam quarter-final with a commanding 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 victory over American Tommy Paul.

Left-hander Norrie is the only local hope surviving at the grasscourt major and for a place in Friday’s semi-finals he will meet Belgian David Goffin, who earlier edged American 23rd seed Frances Tiafoe 7-6 (3), 5-7, 5-7, 6-4, 7-5.

Paul, seeded 30th, had defeated a left-handed player in each of his previous three rounds but failed to find solutions to breach Norrie’s precise delivery and tame his opponent’s accurate forehand in a frenzied atmosphere on Court One.

Norrie broke Paul’s delivery in the opening game to take the lead and then saved four breakpoints on his own serve in the sixth game to keep his nose ahead and take the first set.

Spinning his racquet from one hand to the other while receiving serve, the 25-year-old American could not find a way to dent Norrie’s delivery but looked to be more aggressive overall by approaching the net more often.

But Norrie’s expansive forehand was up to the challenge and a netted return from Paul gave him a break of serve in the third game of the second set. Paul again had two chances to get the set back on serve but the Briton saved both for a 4-2 lead.

With Norrie serving at 5-4, the American finally managed to convert a breakpoint, only to be broken back immediately to hand back the lead, much to the delight of the partisan crowd.

The third set followed a similar script with Norrie once again getting an early break of serve in the third game and the 26-year-old converted his first matchpoint when Paul pulled a forehand wide.

On Saturday, Australian maverick Nick Kyrgios knocked out fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in a wild and wonderful third-round slugfest that threatened to spiral out of control.

The 27-year-old Kyrgios produced sublime tennis to earn a 6-7 (2), 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (7) victory but the match will be remembered chiefly as one of the most bad-tempered seen at Wimbledon for decades.

The eagerly-awaited Court One clash was the hottest ticket in town, even with Rafa Nadal playing over on Centre Court.

It did not disappoint either, with scintillating tennis accompanied by mayhem as both players lost their heads.

With the lights on and a deafening atmosphere it was the unseeded Kyrgios who emerged from the chaos with one of his finest Grand Slam victories, edging a nerve-jangling fourth set tiebreak after saving a set point.

Nadal’s pursuit of a rare calendar Grand Slam gathered momentum as he took it upon himself to reprimand Lorenzo Sonego before condemning the Italian to a 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 defeat.

The second seed had dropped a set in each of his previous two matches but on day six he appeared to be on a mission to get the match done and dusted before darkness set in.

But when Sonego convinced officials to close the roof so that the floodlights could be turned on with the second seed leading 4-2 in the third set, Nadal did not appear happy with the decision as it meant his victory charge would be held up by at least 10 minutes.

Upon resumption, the Italian riled the Spaniard by roaring in the middle of a rally after hitting a spectacular shot.

Nadal ended up dropping his serve for the first time in the match and, like a stern headmaster, he beckoned Sonego to the net and gave him an earful about the etiquette of tennis.

That exchange only served to fire up Nadal further and he won the next two games to reach Wimbledon’s round of 16 for the 10th time.

Published in Dawn, July 4th, 2022

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