MELBOURNE, Jan 17 (Reuters) - Kimiko Date-Krumm’s former rivals call her crazy but the 42-year-old Japanese, who reached the third round of the Australian Open on Thursday, is intent on playing on until her body gives up on her completely.
Date-Krumm made her Melbourne Park debut 23 years ago and became the oldest woman to win a match at the grand slam tournament with her first round victory over 12th seed Nadia Petrova on Tuesday.
She was not done yet, however, and defied Thursday’s sweltering heat to drag her body through another 92 minutes of exertion on court six to emerge a 6-2 7-5 winner over Shahar Peer of Israel.
“It was very, very tough today, tough match,” the 100th-ranked Date-Krumm told reporters.
”It was a big challenge for me because (during the second set) suddenly something big and strong hit my back and I felt so heavy in my body and I couldn’t move.
“But I tried to push myself.”
A throwback to the days when technique rather than power dominated women’s tennis, Date-Krumm pushed herself to victory and a meeting with Lucie Safarova or Bojana Jovanovski in the fourth round.
Asked how long she would continue to return to Melbourne, the 1994 semi-finalist joked that she would like to extend her run to 2018.
”But it’s not easy, not easy,“ she said. ”I need a new body. I practised on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, then on Tuesday I played singles first round and doubles first round.
“Today, it was the second round. And tomorrow maybe doubles again. So I need a rest.”
Rest and plenty of liquids are Date-Krumm’s recipe for longevity in the game and she revealed that 10 hours of sleep had helped restore her energy levels for Thursday’s contest.
The 12-year hiatus in her career from 1997 probably did not hurt, either.
On her Australian Open debut in 1990, she beat American Pam Shriver on her way to the fourth round.
Four year’s later, she ousted Conchita Martinez to reach the semi-finals at Melbourne Park only to go down 6-3 6-3 to eventual champion Steffi Graf.
Date-Krumm, now older than the mothers of many of her rivals, said she still caught up frequently with former rivals like Lindsay Davenport, Martinez, Mary Jo Fernandez and Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario.
”Everybody says to me, you are crazy,“ she said. ”First word is always, you are crazy. But they support me a lot.
“When I see Steffi, of course, she says to me, you should stop now and make the baby.” (Editing by Peter Rutherford)