Kimiko Date-Krumm calls her longevity 'a miracle'

Associated Press  |  Last updated January 19, 2013
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Kimiko Date-Krumm is as amazed as everyone else that she's still playing Grand Slam tennis at 42. ''It's a miracle,'' she said. After a week of setting age-related records and becoming the media darling of this year's Australian Open, the Japanese player bid farewell to the big stage for now after losing her third-round singles match on Saturday. ''It was a great tournament for me,'' Date-Krumm said after losing 6-2, 7-6 (3) to 21-year-old Serbian Bojana Jovanovski. In a sport dominated with women half her age, it was a great tournament for Date-Krumm. This was her 43rd time playing a Grand Slam tournament - and she was the oldest woman in the draw by about a decade. The only other player who came close was 33-year-old Greta Arn of Hungary who lost quickly in the first round. Date-Krumm is ranked 100th but defied the ranking system. She created a stir by beating No. 12-seeded Nadia Petrova - who is 30 - 6-2, 6-0 in the first round and becoming the oldest woman to win a singles match at the Australian Open. Over the course of a week, she held court at packed press conferences and fielded questions about her secrets to longevity. ''Sleep a lot. Drink water a lot. It's nothing special,'' she said, noting that she's older than some of her opponents' mothers. She recounted amusing conversations with her peers from the past, like Steffi Graf and Lindsay Davenport who retired years ago and have started families. ''Everybody says to me, `You are crazy,' First word is always, `You are crazy,''' she laughed. ''But they support me a lot.'' Date-Krumm's best result at the Australian Open came in 1994 when she reached the semifinals. She achieved a career-high ranking of No. 4 in 1995. She admitted finding it tough to keep up with this generation of fitness fanatics whose raw power has changed the women's game. ''Everytime when I go to the gym, everybody is there, even before their matches, after their match,'' she said. ''They're doing so much exercise. That's why women's tennis is changing compared to 10 years ago, 20 years ago.'' When Graf was winning her 22 Grand Slams in the 1980s and 90s the game was more about technique, she said. ''Now it's more speedy and more powerful,'' she said, a few hours after Serena Williams unleashed her latest 207 kph (128 mph) serve. Date-Krumm, who is married to German race car driver Michael Krumm, took a 12-year break from tennis and returned in 2008. When she came back, she never planned to play at the Grand Slam level. ''So, yeah, it's a miracle I was in the third round this year,'' she said. ''I'm very surprised myself.'' Her stay in Melbourne is not quite over yet. She's still playing doubles, and has advanced to the third round with Arantxa Parra Santonja of Spain. Resting doesn't seem to be on her agenda. After Melbourne, Date-Krumm plans to return to Japan for a couple days before flying off for a packed schedule of tournaments that include Pattaya, Thailand, then Fed Cup, Memphis, Brazil, Indian Wells, Miami, Mexico. In answer to the inevitable question: Will she be back next year? ''I will try my best,'' she says. --- ACHES AND PAIN: Milos Raonic is convinced his fever, aches and even blurred vision are what helped him to win. The big-serving Canadian wasn't sure he'd make it to his third-round match after sweating through the previous night with fever and aches. ''I had a tough night last night,'' the No. 13-seeded player said. When he arrived at the court, he ''struggled seeing'' clearly. ''I just felt like every type of ache I had was magnified,'' he said, which made him channel his energy. ''In a way, it was a good thing because I've been struggling a little bit with the intensity,'' he said after pulling through in straight sets against Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany, 7-6 (4), 6-3, 6-4. ''It forced me to go 110 percent right away from the start.'' He'll need that kind of commitment again in the next round against Roger Federer. Federer has already won 17 Grand Slam trophies, including four at the Australian Open. The celebrated Swiss star was hailed as ''the maestro'' by the center court announcer after he beat Bernard Tomic in straight sets soon after Raonic's match finished in another court. At 1.96 meters (6-foot-5), and armed with a huge serve, the 22-year-old Raonic is regularly mentioned as an up-and-coming player to watch. He's played Federer three times and lost all of them. ''I've had my three shots against him, and I look forward to the fourth,'' Raonic said. Federer said he expected a battle. ''I've had some tough matches with him in the past,'' said Federer, who is seeded second. ''Some of them I should have lost.'' --- IN PRAISE OF GUSSIE: Serena Williams paid tribute to Gussie Moran, the trailblazing tennis star who scandalized Wimbledon in 1949 by wearing a tennis skirt above her knees and lace-trimmed underwear. Moran died at age 89 on Wednesday in Los Angeles. Williams, the 15-time Grand Slam winner, who has a flair for on-court fashion, said it was women like Moran who paved the way for how female athletes can dress today. ''When you look at the history of tennis, especially Wimbledon, you see these women wear these long gowns,'' said No. 3-seeded Williams, gesturing toward her feet. ''I don't know how they could have possibly played in that.'' As a 25-year-old seeded-seventh at Wimbledon in 1949, Moran made jaws drop and flashbulbs pop when she showed up for her first match minus the knee-length skirt considered proper for women at the time. She lost the match, but her striking fashion statement appeared on magazine covers around the world. The British press dubbed her ''Gorgeous Gussie.'' Once ranked as high as fourth in the United States, Moran never achieved great fame for her tennis. Perhaps in a sign of how far tennis fashion has developed, No. 1 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus said she had never heard of Moran. And Williams said she knew ''the name Gussie'' but needed a reminder about her legacy. ''Someone always has to be first. I think that obviously she made a way for not only tennis players but just women in general in sport,'' Williams said. ''Like you don't have to wear a dress to your ankles to be a female athlete playing sports. ''I think being a trailblazer is honorable.''
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