PARIS May 28 When she won her first of only two games against Sam Stosur, the 42-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm raised her arms in celebration -- she was happier than when she was a grand slam contender.
"I have still passion, and when I was young in the 1990's I was not enjoying the tour," the Japanese told reporters after being humbled 6-0 6-2 by the Australian ninth seed in the first round of the French Open on Tuesday.
"I was not enjoying tennis. I was not enjoying the tour. I was not enjoying anything. I was only stressed all the time."
Date-Krumm, who reached the semi-finals of the French Open in 1995, but also played in the last four of Wimbledon (1996), and the Australian Open (94), reached a career No.4 in the WTA rankings that year but it did not exactly fulfil her.
Now the 81st player in the world, Date-Krumm made her French Open debut in 1989, when 57 of the players in this year's main draw were not even born.
"Sometimes I was crying on the airplane because I didn't want to stay out of Japan," Date-Krumm, the third oldest woman to play singles at Roland Garros, said.
Date-Krumm quit at the end of 1996 but, after a 12-year hiatus in which she met her husband, German racing car driver Michael Krumm, she returned to the sport.
"After I stopped tennis, I enjoyed a normal life. Then I married with a German guy and I changed a lot," she explained.
"He also tried to change me, my husband tried to change me."
Krumm, whom she met when on a visit to the Le Mans 24 Hours race in 1998, helped her keep cool.
"I am always thinking too much about organising everything, about controlling the time," said Date-Krumm, who plays right-handed despite being a natural left-hander because of Japanese tradition and who was making her 45th grand slam appearance.
"For example, last night before my first match, I wanted to control everything: what time I need to eat, what time I need to sleep, what time I need to wake up, what time I need to start stretching," she explained.
That is where Krumm stepped in.
"You need to sometimes drink wine before the match, even before the match, relax. He tried to change this, because sometimes I'm a little bit too strict with myself," she said.
Date-Krumm admits her preparation for Roland Garros was not ideal, playing not one match on clay this year, and she was duly thrashed by former runner-up Stosur.
"I didn't play on red clay even once this year, because for many years, when I played in the red clay tournaments, I would lose in the first round, first round, first round, and then I would get injured," she said.
"I've got doubles here then I'm already focussed on the grasscourt season."
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Martyn Herman)