MELBOURNE, Australia - The re-breakthrough run of Kimiko Date-Krumm came to an end at the Aussie Open on Saturday night, as the second-oldest woman to reach the third round of a Grand Slam in the Open Era was edged in a tight two-setter by one of the WTA's rising stars, Bojana Jovanovski.
Jovanovski and Date-Krumm - who had taken out seeded players Lucie Safarova and Nadia Petrova earlier in the tournament, respectively - went toe to toe on Court 2 in front of an enthusiastic crowd, with Jovanovski controlling the match early, building a 62 20 lead. But the crafty Date-Krumm fought back, twice going up a break in the second set - even serving for the marathon set at 6-5.
"I tried to put pressure on her, but she wasn't making mistakes on the most important points," said Date-Krumm, who would drop serve and end up losing the match in the breaker, 62 76(3). "I had a small chance but it was not my day - but she played so well today. So many times we practiced together and I've never seen her play like this. Sometimes she makes easy mistakes but today her balls were so deep and she was controlling everything. She was mentally strong, too. I was very impressed."
Despite the loss, Date-Krumm leaves Melbourne on a new wave of confidence - the first time since her 2008 comeback she has reached the third round of a Grand Slam. "Right now I'm disappointed but it was the first time in a long time I won two matches at a Grand Slam," she said. "It was a great tournament for me. The ranking will also be a little bit higher after this tournament. So it will be a little bit easier to play other tournaments compared to now. I will try to keep my level and keep fighting.
"When I came back to tennis I never thought about playing Grand Slams again. The first year I only thought about playing in Japan, not even playing on the WTA tour, and never the Grand Slams. But now I've played here three or four times. It's a miracle I was in the third round. I surprised myself.
"It's still just the start of the season. I'll keep trying my best and we'll see."
Jovanovski talked about her victory against the Japanese veteran the morning after. "Yesterday's victory, and especially the way I won the match, is additionally strengthening to my self-confidence before the next round and in tournaments ahead," the Serb commented. "I am delighted to see that segments I worked very hard on in the pre-season period improved my game. This will be my first time to play in the last 16 at a Grand Slam. I'll do my best to approach next match without any pressure, completely focused only on my tennis. That is the only way I can make another step forward at this tournament.
"Also, I would like to congratulate Kimiko Date-Krumm on a great performance and the stunning energy she showed at this tournament. Her example is very inspiring for all of us younger players."
"I don't think we'll ever play on that court again. We're turning into the Fed-Nadal rivalry," Stephens joked in her presser. "But seriously, whenever we play, we have good matches. I mean, it could be like that. It's obviously going to take a while. The matches are good though, so we'll see."
Stephens and Robson are friends too. "We're good friends - my mom and her mom are good friends," the American added. "Right after I got off the court my mom texted me. She was like, 'Great job, good fight.' And she said, 'Cathy says, great job and good luck in the next round.' That's Laura's mom.
"Laura's obviously a good player. We're going to have a rivalry, all that good stuff."
Other third round winners on Saturday included No.10 seed Caroline Wozniacki, who outsteadied Ukrainian qualifier Lesia Tsurenko, 64 63, and Svetlana Kuznetsova, who ended the run of Carla Suárez Navarro, 62 46 63 - the Spaniard had taken out No.7 seed Sara Errani in the first round here.