Tatjana Maria has played on the biggest stages in tennis and defeated some of the game’s top players. On Sunday, she was far from the cool, green grass of Wimbledon or the gritty clay of Roland Garros.
Instead, the German, who celebrates her 27th birthday Friday, was toiling away on the purple, sun-drenched varsity courts of the Bayard H. Friedman Tennis Center at TCU.
And she was winning.
The No. 5-seeded Maria, who is ranked No. 704, showed glimpses of her career-high No. 64 WTA ranking as she cruised past North Carolina sophomore Hayley Carter 6-1, 6-1 to win the Holt Fiat Woman’s $10K USTA Pro Circuit tournament Sunday.
During her career, Maria (formerly Malek, before marrying her coach in April 2013) has defeated players such as No. 2-ranked Simona Halep and No. 8 Angelique Kerber, but her sights are set on playing her way back into the top 100 of the WTA Tour after giving birth to a baby girl in December.
If Sunday is any indication, she’s on the right track.
“It’s a pretty good start for me to win this tournament,” Maria said. “I need a lot of matches at the moment. I started playing again in April, but mostly doubles. I didn’t play so much singles. We did Roland Garros in doubles and did pretty good, but now I want to really play singles.”
Maria, playing with Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, reached the round of 32 in doubles at the French Open and added a doubles title the following week at the $25,000 tournament in Essen, Germany. But the last of her eight previous career singles titles came in August 2011 in Hechingen, Germany.
“Of course, I normally play bigger tournaments, but it was nice for me to come back here in this tournament, play matches and try to win, because it’s not easy to win here, so it was a real nice tournament for me,” said Maria, who played her final tournament of 2013 at Wimbledon before taking nine months off.
She returned to action four months after giving birth.
“When you get a child, for your body, everything is different,” Maria said. “When I wanted to come back after the delivery, it was not so easy. But now I’m in pretty good shape, and I feel like before, or better.”
Maria’s comeback will continue next week in a $100,000 tournament in Bogota, Colombia, before returning to New York for U.S. Open qualifying later this month. If she qualifies, it would be her 13th appearance in a major.
That would also be a long way from the purple courts at TCU, but the comeback trail can take some unusual twists and turns.
Runner-up Carter isn’t leaving Fort Worth empty-handed. Carter, who finished last season with the Tar Heels ranked No. 3 in the nation in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, teamed with TCU senior Stefanie Tan on Saturday to win the doubles title at TCU.