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Jule Niemeier: In the imagination a top player


Jule Niemeier has so far hardly been known to the general public. She has a lot to get to the top. The 22-year-old has already pulled off a coup at Wimbledon. Can she close a gap in German tennis?

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Jule Niemeier surprisingly won in Wimbledon against number two in the world, Anett Kontaveit


Paul Zimmer / IMAGO

For Jule Niemeier, victories in Grand Slam tournaments are something completely new.

Especially in Wimbledon, especially against such a well-known opponent as Anett Kontaveit, after all number two in the world rankings.

Niemeier won 6-4, 6-0 on Wednesday, in just 58 minutes, and is now in the third round of the world's most famous lawn tournament.

Her calm appearance after the success, the greatest of her career, was all the more astonishing.

As in the game, she had hurried, just half an hour after the converted match point, she appeared in front of the press, sweat still dripping from her forehead.

Niemeier said that playing on grass suits her best: "Hard serves, lots of undercut and deep balls, stops and going to the net again and again, that's just my thing."

Niemeier is a newcomer, but also no longer a teenager.

The Dortmund native is 22 years old, so surprising victories are a little easier to process.

It was a surprise, especially in terms of clarity, but it wasn't a sensation either.

If you ask around a bit in the scene, it quickly becomes clear that Niemeier's breakthrough was to be expected sooner rather than later.

"She has to gain experience and keep playing the big tournaments," said Angelique Kerber, who, like Niemeier, won her second round match on Wednesday.

Niemeier will certainly lose matches that hurt.

“But then there are victories like the one against Kontaveit that give you confidence.

You can hope for more with her, but that was the case even before Wimbledon.”

A mixture of power and intelligence

Niemeier's self-description sounds like a best-of of the lawn game of nine-time Wimbledon champion Martina Navratilova.

In addition, as tennis players like to say, she has a wonderful »touch«.

You need a good and light hand on the fast surface, above all, to ensure moments of surprise.

Her style is sometimes reminiscent of tennis in the 1990s, when it was more about finesse, strategy and grace than strength, stamina and hard hitting.

Niemeier's greatest strength is her serve, she says.

And there, too, it's a mixture of power and intelligence: »Sometimes you can't see where I'm hitting.

That makes it so difficult for my opponents.«

Successes by young German tennis players immediately arouse desire.

Kerber is still successful, but for how long?

Julia Görges has already resigned, Andrea Petkovic will follow soon.

Who can fill this big gap in the future?

Niemeier has the potential.

One that Niemeier knows well is Barbara Rittner, the head national coach of the German Tennis Association (DTB).

"Jule has all the weapons for a top player," says Rittner, praising above all her clever game.

Petkovic, who has taken on a kind of mentoring role for her, sees it similarly: “In terms of play, she is an absolute top 20 player for me.

She knows that, I tell her that seven or eight times a day.”

First high school, then professional tennis

The fact that Niemeier is currently only 97th in the world rankings has a lot to do with previous injuries, a shoulder injury cost many months.

The corona pandemic took her rhythm in the past two years.

In addition, she decided – like many other young players on the way to professional business do not do – to complete her Abitur.

She is not alone in this in Germany, the DTB attaches great importance to completing school.

This slows down the development process, which is also the case with Niemeier.

In Germany, Niemeier belongs to the new generation of tennis players along with Natasja Schunk and Eva Lys.

So those who should follow Kerber, Petkovic, Görges and Sabine Lisicki.

For various reasons, the gap in the DTB is extremely large, because in the generation of women in their mid-twenties - such as Anna-Lena Friedsam, Antonia Lottner or Carina Witthöft - it was not enough for great success.

Also because of this and because the young players can hardly show good results in WTA tournaments, the following question has been discussed in German tennis for years: Are the young professionals who are now slowly taking over really good enough?

The new front woman Niemeier takes a relaxed view of things: "I know the discussion, but to be honest, I don't feel any pressure at all," she once said.

However, after victories like against Kontaveit, that could change.

In her case, the changes in the background now seem to be paying off.

Niemeier moved to Regensburg last year to develop physically for the demands of the professional tour under physiotherapist Florian Zitzelsberger.

After a short phase with trainer Michael Geserer, she is now being coached by ex-professional Christopher Kas, and that can also be seen in her game.

Niemeier's composure and coolness can also be observed in Wimbledon.

The great opportunity to play your way forward in what is only your second Grand Slam tournament will probably not change that.

The draw means well with her, in the third round she meets the also unseeded Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko.

Only in the quarterfinals could there be another game against a well-known opponent.

But she has already conquered one with Kontaveit.

"I think I can beat almost every opponent that is here," said Niemeier after her victory over Kontaveit.

That sounded very confident.

Source: spiegel

All sports articles on 2022-06-30

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