Loud cheers could be heard in the Steffi Graf Stadium. Not too much had happened in the duel between Jule Niemeier and Belinda Bencic. But next door, on the second largest court of the LTTC Rot-Weiss Berlin tennis court, local hero Sabine Lisicki had just won her doubles alongside Canadian Bianca Andreescu – and that interested the spectators a bit more than Niemeier’s first-round appearance on the center court .
The 22-year-old from Dortmund has so far mainly been known to tennis experts, but she is now the third-best German player behind Angelique Kerber, who is missing in Berlin, and Andrea Petkovic, who after Niemeier won her match against Garbine Muguruza from Spain 7: 6, 6: 4 . A few days ago, the young German won her first tournament at WTA level, on clay she won in Makarska/Croatia.
In Berlin, on the other hand, the end came in round one, as in the previous year, she lost to Swiss Bencic in three sets after a hard fight. It was 4: 6, 7: 5 and 3: 6 after around two and a half hours of play, in which Niemeier certainly had her chances against last year’s Berlin finalist and Olympic champion.
“I can be satisfied with my performance. Belinda is simply very strong on grass,” she said after the match, referring to her opponent’s lead in terms of experience. “I still have to learn to focus on the important points. But these matches help me,” added Niemeier.
The right-hander has an acceptable repertoire for lawn tennis. Their service repeatedly scratched the 190 km/h mark in Berlin, and Niemeier also repeatedly dared to go to the net against Bencic and even occasionally interspersed serve-and-volleys. Ultimately, however, she lacked consistency and mistakes crept into her game too often. Sometimes a forehand was too long, then another slice was not executed properly.
But all of that is part of the learning process, Niemeier hasn’t played many tournaments at the highest level, recently she was able to qualify for a main draw in a Grand Slam tournament at the French Open for the first time. At the age of 22, she is not necessarily the great hope for the future in German women’s tennis, which is chronically weak in young people, even if she has already been described as such due to the lack of an alternative. She still sees herself “at the very beginning” of her career. That’s why she doesn’t go to tournaments like the one in Berlin with too high expectations. But, as she says confidently, “I know I can play very well.”
On the way to the top of the world, Niemeier is looked after by former professional Christopher Kas. He sat in the box in Berlin and tried to calmly counter the repeatedly erupting temper of his player. After all, Niemeier managed to win the Berlin public, who had been reticent for a long time, more and more on her side. When the match against Bencic turned in the direction of the Germans in the second set, there was rhythmic clapping and at the end at least a small gust of applause.
A few fans in the top rows of the Steffi Graf Stadium nevertheless took advantage of the moment and kept looking over at the Lisicki doubles a few meters below on the adjacent pitch during the Niemeier match. Naturally, Niemeier cannot compare to the former Wimbledon finalist in terms of popularity and it is doubtful she will ever go as far as the 32-year-old red and white icon.
And yet the Tuesday afternoon in Grunewald was a little hint. Lisicki is currently working on her umpteenth comeback after a long injury, while Niemeier is just getting a taste of big tennis. What is still possible in this regard, especially when the golden generation around Kerber, Petkovic and Lisicki finally resigns, Niemeier himself does not know at the moment. On the other hand, it seems certain that in the future it will more often be the driving force from a German perspective.
In this regard, she still has some time to grow in the shadow of her better-known colleagues. In Wimbledon in two weeks, the next test is coming up for her, where Jule Niemeier is directly qualified for the main draw for the first time. “First of all, I’m happy that I’ll be playing there on the facility,” she says. And even if the tournament in Berlin ended without a win for her, she is going to the tennis mecca “very confidently”.