Kimiko Crowned in Seoul
Published September 27, 2009 12:00
SEOUL, South Korea - Sometimes when the floodgates open, they really open. Her comeback saw her lose first round in her first eight Sony Ericsson WTA Tour events, but once she got that monkey off her back this week there was no looking back. Kimiko Date Krumm, one day shy of her 39th birthday, went all the way to the Hansol Korea Open title this week, dusting off the run with a straight set win over Anabel Medina Garrigues on Sunday afternoon.
Date Krumm finally got over the hump with a 63 64 first round win against Korean wildcard Lee Ye-Ra. She was down 64 52 to Alisa Kleybanova in the second round, facing a match point down 64 53 as well; but she overcame, rallying for a 46 76(4) 63 win, then toughed out another pair of tough wins, 76(3) 46 64 against top seed Daniela Hantuchova in the quarterfinals and 36 62 64 against the defending champion, Maria Kirilenko, in the semifinals.
Against No.2 seed Medina Garrigues in the final, Date Krumm faced her most tenacious and consistent opponent yet; the Japanese needed to withstand the mental pressure of playing one of the best grinders out there and she did just that, converting the only break point of the opening set and holding onto that momentum in the second set for a 63 63 victory and the trophy.
"I didn't think about winning the title. I had no pressure because of that, and I think my opponent had too much pressure," Date Krumm said. "The match reminded me again that in tennis, you really don't know how anything will turn out before you actually play. My husband's love and support was more important than anything in this. I was relaxed, mentally strong and physically I was doing well. With all of the tennis I've played, I was of course tired. For the past year I didn't know if I could compete well on the Tour, but now it looks okay.
"I came back to win matches. I want to continue as long as my body holds up. I think I'll be able to keep playing for a couple of years."
"I arrived here without a lot of confidence. To be in the final is a very good result. I would have been happier winning the tournament but Kimiko played very, very well," Medina Garrigues said. "When I was on court, I didn't feel like she was 38. She won five matches in a row this week, four in three sets, more than two and a half hours, and today she was running like it was the first day."
At 38 years, 11 months and 30 days, Date Krumm is the second-oldest player in the Open Era to win a singles title on the Tour, after Billie Jean King (who won Birmingham in 1983 at 39 years, 7 months and 23 days).
Since her comeback last April, Date Krumm had enjoyed success on the ITF Women's Circuit but hadn't broken through again at the Tour level, going 0-8 in main draws - although she had pushed several top players to three sets in those losses. One of those three-setters came just last week in Guangzhou - losing to none other than Medina Garrigues in the first round, 61 46 64.
Date Krumm now has eight singles titles on the Tour, her first seven all coming between 1992 and 1996. Five came in Tokyo, one at the Toray Pan Pacific Open (1995) and four at the Japan Open (1992, 1993, 1994, 1996); her other two titles came in Sydney (1994) and San Diego (1996).
Date Krumm's fallen opponents were impressed with her play throughout the week, including Hantuchova, who wrote about the Japanese veteran in her Tour Blog: "All the credit to Kimiko, she was playing unbelievably. She was going for her shots, hitting them flat and hard, and it was very tough for me to do anything. She never backed down. I knew I had a tough match coming, but I didn't think she'd play this well! She had been away from the game for so long and I thought she'd make more mistakes, but she played a perfect match."
Chan Yung-Jan and Abigail Spears beat Carly Gullickson and Nicole Kriz for the doubles title, 63 64. It was Chan and Spears' first time winning as a pair; Chan won her eighth Tour doubles title (her first seven all coming with Chuang Chia-Jung) while Spears won her fifth Tour doubles title (her first four with Laura Granville, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Teryn Ashley and Raquel Kops-Jones).
"This was the perfect tournament," said Chan, who won this title in 2005 with Chuang and was also a singles quarterfinalist this year. "This is my second time winning the doubles here, and it's still very exciting."