Forever Young: Kimiko Stuns Safina
Published May 25, 2010 12:00
PARIS, France - It has been a phenomenal start for veterans at this year's French Open, with 34-year-old Rossana de los Ríos winning her first round match on Monday and 35-year-old Jill Craybas doing the same early Tuesday. But few would have guessed that Kimiko Date Krumm, 39, could achieve the same feat, particularly given her opponent's name was Dinara Safina.
Not only that, but Date Krumm was not in peak condition. After fighting back from 4-2 down in the second set to split, the Japanese fell back 4-1 in the third. The strained right calf that caused her retirement in Estoril and withdrawal from Warsaw was visibly distressing her, tears in her eyes - but the fire never burned out. She hit back-to-back return winners to break back and revived her game from there, ousting the No.9 seed and two-time returning finalist, 36 64 75.
"I didn't want to stop," Date Krumm said. "My condition was very bad, but she was getting a little nervous, and she started making mistakes. So I tried many things, like drop shots and hitting wider, slower... I tried everything."
Date Krumm is the second-oldest woman to win a match at Roland Garros in the Open Era (Virginia Wade was the oldest in 1985). And at 39 years, seven months and 26 days, Date Krumm also becomes the oldest player ever to beat a Top 10 player on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour - the previous oldest, Billie Jean King, was 39 years, six months and 29 days when she did it.
"I was very, very happy to play on Suzanne Lenglen Court. I have a big memory there. In 1995, I beat Iva Majoli there then played on Philippe Chatrier against Arantxa Sánchez-Vicario in the semifinals. I don't like red clay so much, but today I beat Safina, so it's a big, big memory again. Even if I lost, I'd still be very happy to be there - I'd be playing Safina on Suzanne Lenglen."
Having reached the final here last year, Safina could fall as low as into the 20s after this tournament: "In the first set I was pretty dominant and in the second set I was up a break. Third set I was a double break up, 4-1. I should have closed it out in two sets. She plays aggressive - that's it. She takes the ball early and hits it pretty flat. It's different. I saw her cramping and I stopped thinking about what I was doing. I lost the momentum.
"I will not give up. I will swallow this loss and keep on moving. That's life. After rain, the sun always comes."
Date Krumm, Craybas and de los Ríos were the three oldest players in this year's main draw, and all are now through to the second round.
The rest of the seeds in action were all victorious, most notably No.22 seed Justine Henin, who won her 22nd straight match and her 36th and 37th consecutive sets at Roland Garros. Read more about Henin's win here.
Maria Sharapova, the No.12 seed, also won, beating teen-aged qualifier Ksenia Pervak, 63 62. Sharapova is coming off her second career clay court title, winning Strasbourg over the weekend: "I had a good week last week. I played every day - that's kind of what I wanted going into the tournament, playing matches. I even played two in one day. Physically I felt really good. I think it had to do with the preparation I had, the week or two before that."
Marion Bartoli, Yanina Wickmayer, Shahar Peer, Vera Zvonareva, Daniela Hantuchova, Zheng Jie and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova also won. Peer, seeded No.18, notched her Tour-leading 28th match win of the year, beating Nuria Llagostera Vives, 61 64; and Bartoli, the No.13 seed and France's No.1 player, cruised to a 62 63 win over Maria Elena Camerin.