Fourteen months after the birth of her second daughter, the German beat María Sákkari (6-3, 7-5) to grab her first 8th in a Grand Slam. Without the help of the WTA.
- Mathieu Aeschmann
Sometimes pioneers hide away from the cameras. On Friday, Tatjana Maria became the first mother of two to reach the second week of a Grand Slam tournament. The German proved to be stronger than María Sákkari (5th in the world), the archaic regulations of the WTA and, undoubtedly, her own doubts. “When you come back from pregnancy, you have to manage to go up in the rankings, she explained radiantly after her feat. It would be nice if attitudes and rules changed. I think we could help players to consider family life more during their career. I am an example of successful cohabitation. It’s nice to have a family on the circuit. But it’s complicated.”
In the Maria family, in the shadow of Tatjana, there is the former player Charles-Edouard, now father and coach, Charlotte, 8 years old and Cecilia, 14 months. “The rule is that we are a family first, explains Tatjana. It is forbidden to take the lead because of tennis. A dike that seems to hold up well, especially at Wimbledon where life is much easier for families. “There are daycares in all four Grand Slam tournaments. It’s great for children, who know each other and have fun meeting each other. And that’s obviously a comfort for us. There, I finish the press then I go to Aorangi Park (the training site) to pick up my girls. They love coming to Wimbledon.”
This idyllic landscape, however, is not the norm. “Today, pregnant players are treated by the WTA as if they were injured, denounced Tatjana Maria this spring in an interview with the ARD channel. We need a pregnancy-specific rule. It’s sad to see athletes who feel so pressured that they cling to their careers and only consider having children once they are over.” At the start of 2021, the German thus benefited from a “protected classification” like all long-term injuries (WTA and ATP combined). But she got back into shape so quickly after Cecilia’s arrival that her total of ‘wildcards’ – admission to tournaments based on her ranking at the time of stoppage – was reduced from twelve to eight. Absurd.
“We contacted Steve Simon, the CEO of the WTA. He listened to us but we are still waiting for an answer. I often hear this argument: “Players do not want children during their career”. It’s wrong. The discussions I have in the locker room do not go in this direction. Things have to change.” Well-known examples are not lacking, however. With figures as strong as Kim Clijsters (three Grand Slam titles as a mother), Serena Williams (4 finals) or Victoria Azarenka, the WTA had all the media opportunity to legislate.
She did not do it. “And beyond the rules, there is the practical reality, continues the German. Only Grand Slam tournaments offer child care. It would be nice to be able to take advantage of it in major tournaments, in Indian Wells or Miami for example. A lack that does not prevent Tatjana Maria from considering motherhood as a balancing factor for a professional sportswoman. “When you get your kids back, you immediately become a mom again. They don’t care if you won or lost. A mom doesn’t have time to mope about her game. My attention then automatically detaches from tennis, it’s very good for the head. We can therefore trust her: Sunday against Jelena Ostapenko, Tatjana Maria will arrive with a free spirit. Carried by a force from Aorangi Park.
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