Immediately after taking the biggest win of her career, the 34-year-old paid an emotional tribute to her daughters. “It’s a dream to experience this with my two little girls,” said Maria. “I almost gave birth a year ago. I mean, it’s crazy.’
She also did it in a dramatic way, making a comeback after a set and break-down for her German compatriot Jule Niemeier.
Niemeier, 22, practically ran into the last four, that was her superior composure and quality in the first half of this match, but Maria somehow cut her way into the fray. She fought off a breaking point at 5-5 in the decider and eventually closed it with 4-6, 6-2, 7-5.
The achievement is all the more remarkable as Maria, the world No. 103, has previously struggled to impress at major events. In her 34 previous Grand Slams main tournaments, she had only reached the third round of the All England Club once in 2015.
Now she is one of only six women to reach the final four at Wimbledon, over the age of 34. She said she would join this exclusive list – which includes Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, Chrissie Evert, Venus Williams and Serena Williams – was a “proud” moment.
Only she and Serena Williams have reached the milestone as mothers, but unlike the 23-time major champion, the highlights of Maria’s career have generally come since having her children.
She first broke into the top 50 after the birth of her daughter Charlotte and she even rebuilt her game during that first maternity leave, switching to a one-handed backhand with the help of coach and husband Charles-Edouard. Now she has a chance to make it to a grand final, less than a year since she returned to competitive tennis from her second maternity leave.
Breaking down barriers is part of her motivation. “I made it to the top 50 with Charlotte, and now I’m back with my second child — still everyone was doubting,” she said. “It’s kind of my life to show everyone that I’m still here and that I’m a fighter, and I keep going and dreaming. That’s what I want to show my kids.”
Maria’s family life on tour is unconventional, but she says her daughters are doing well. Her eight-year-old Charlotte has a family-run Instagram account with the “future tennis player” bio, so inspired by her mother and the champions she can hang out with. These fortnights at Wimbledon have started Maria’s days on the practice courts with Charlotte for their 8.30am training slot before her own more serious hit.
Watching the most important game of her career on Thursday, she said her routine would be no different – including changing her one-year-old’s diapers and taking them both to nursery for the Wimbledon tournament.
“For me, that’s the most important thing in my life: being a mother to my two children,” she said. “Nothing will change this. I’m in the Wimbledon semi-finals, it’s crazy, but I’m still a mother. After this, I’ll go there and I’ll see my kids and I’ll do the same thing I do every day. I “will change her Pampers. I try to stay normal as much as possible because what I am most proud of is being a mother.”
Maria will take on her good friend and tournament favorite Ons Jabeur, who continued her unbeaten run on grass this season with her own comeback win against Marie Bouzkova.
World No. 2 Jabeur recovered from a dismal start to her match, beating the Czech player 3-6 6-1 6-1 to reach the first major semi-final of her career.
“I love Tatyana so much, her family is amazing and she’s my BBQ buddy,” Jabeur said when she heard that she will meet Maria. “It’s going to be hard to play against her, she’s a great friend. I’m really happy for her, I wish players would look up to her. It’s a great story.”