LONDON (Reuters) - Thailand’s Tamarine Tanasugarn was left to fly the flag for the 30 somethings in the women’s singles on Saturday after reaching the last 16 at Wimbledon for the seventh time in her career.
With Japan’s 32-year-old Ai Sugiyama losing her third round match against Alisa Kleybanova, Tamarine, who turned 31 in May, is now the oldest woman left in the draw.
Despite being considerably closer to the end of her career than the beginning, the Thai is in the form of her life and happily mixing it with the young crowd.
She gave away 11 years to New Zealand’s Marina Erakovic on Saturday but despite admitting her concentration had been “on another planet” the experience gained in more than 760 Tour matches pulled her through to a 4-6 6-4 6-4 victory.
“It’s a good feeling to be back in the second week of a grand slam,” Tamarine, who last reached the fourth round at Wimbledon in 2004, told reporters.
“I’ve never been in a grand slam quarter-final before. I’ve played many fourth round matches here at Wimbledon and I’ve been very disappointed not to go on.
“But, now I’m thinking, wow! There was a 128 draw and there are just 16 left and I’m there, so it’s good already. If I make the quarters it’s great but if I lose in the 16s it’s fine.”
It is a relaxed attitude that has served her well during the ups and downs of a life as a tennis professional and if her form during the grasscourt season is anything to go by she will give world number two Jelena Jankovic a run for her money on Monday.
She reached the quarter-finals at Birmingham before a superb run at Den Bosch where she claimed the second title of her career by beating French Open runner-up Dinara Safina.
“I’m just having fun and enjoying all my matches,” said Tamarine, who was looking forward to Sunday with her feet up.
“Maybe when you are my age you are happier as a tennis player than when you’re in the 20s. I’m happy right now even if I’m the oldest in the draw.
“The way I think about tennis and life is different now. It’s not like “aaagh” after every defeat or thinking I have to do this and don’t do that. There’s always another tournament.”
After 12 consecutive Wimbledon appearances Tamarine, ranked 60, is a popular player in the locker room and feels completely at home at the All England Club. This year she even admits to a few little superstitions.
“It’s funny, I’ve been using the same toilet and the same shower every day, “ she said. “I just like that room!”
While her career continues to blossom, Tamarine can still spare a thought for Thailand’s most successful male tennis player Paradorn Srichaphan who is sidelined with a wrist injury.
“I hope he is coming back because we miss him...Thailand misses him,” she said.
Editing by Clare Lovell