Kimiko Date-Krumm becomes oldest player to reach third round at Wimbledon in Open Era
Japanese earns first meeting with Serena Williams, who beat Carolina Garcia in straight sets
Fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska a comfortable winner against Mathilde Johansson
A glance at some of the Wimbledon semifinalists in 1989 – such as Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, John McEnroe and Ivan Lendl – evokes distant memories of yesteryear but one player from those championships is, remarkably, still playing today: Kimiko Date-Krumm.
To illustrate her longevity another way, the Berlin Wall was still standing when the diminutive Japanese made her Wimbledon debut in June 1989.
Her opponent on the day was another player reminiscent of another era – Zina Garrison – with the American beating the then 19-year-old in straight sets in an inauspicious start for the youngster.
Over two decades on, the 42-year-old has become the oldest player to reach the third round at Wimbledon in the Open Era – beating the mark held by Briton Virginia Wade (39 years, 362 days) when knocking out Romania’s Alexandra Cadantu 6-4 7-5 on Thursday.
The last time Date-Krumm contested the third round at Wimbledon was when she reached her one and only semifinal, where she was beaten by Steffi Graf – some 17 years ago.
Her reward is a showdown with world No. 1 Serena Williams, who cruised past French teenager Caroline Garcia in straight sets in round two (6-3 6-2) and who was a seven-year-old growing up with dreams of tennis stardom when the Japanese made her debut.
“I’m very happy to be in the third round, especially since I love Wimbledon and have many good memories here,” Date-Krumm told reporters after her match. “I think it’s amazing. At the age of 42, I cannot believe it.
“This year I skipped a lot of the clay court season so I could focus on the grass. And luckily this year I didn’t play a seeded player in the first round, because most of the time I did. It’s working. I’m very happy.”
Known simply as Date prior to her marriage to German motor racing driver Michael Krumm in 2001, the veteran of the women’s tour knows her continuation at Wimbledon won’t be easy against the five-time champion – one who has won her last 33 matches.
“She’s so strong. It’s very, very difficult to beat her,” she said. “I played with Venus here two years ago, but of course there’s a big difference between Venus and Serena.
“Serena has more power and more speed. She has more confidence. She has more everything. I just need to try my best on the court and we’ll see. I hope I can stay on the court more than an hour, an hour and a half.”
Williams herself is full of admiration for a player who quit the sport in 1996 – only to make her comeback in 2008 at the age of 37, a time when most professionals have hung up their rackets.
“I’ve never played her but I have so much respect for her,” the defending champion told reporters after her match.
“I think she’s so inspiring to be playing such high level tennis at her age. And she’s a real danger on grass courts - I know that - I will have to be ready.”
“Kimiko has great hand-eye coordination. Doesn’t matter how hard you hit it, she sees the ball and gets it back.
“She has great hands, a wonderful great volley, comes to the net a lot, and she plays really flat too, so the ball stays really low.”
Should Williams beat the second oldest woman to reach the third round of any grand slam in the Open Era since 45-year-old Renee Richards at the 1979 US Open, she will be just one victory away from equalling the longest winning streak in women’s singles history – the 35 straight wins achieved by her sister Venus in 2000.
Venus beat Date-Krumm in a three-set epic at Wimbledon in 2011, prompting Serena to suggest she will talk to her elder sibling for some tips.
“I think I lost four years of my life watching that match,” Serena added. “So I will definitely be talking to Venus and figuring out what I can do to do the best that I can.”
In other matches on a rain-affected Thursday, fourth seed Agnieszka Radswanka – last year’s beaten finalist – defeated France’s Mathilde Johansson 6-1 6-3 to earn a clash against American Madison Keys for a place in the last 16.
Sixth seed Li Na was another Asian to reach the third round as the Chinese saw off Simona Halep 6-2 1-6 6-0, although the Romanian needed treatment on a back injury.
Also advancing on Thursday were former U.S. Open champion Samantha Stosur and Sabine Lisicki, the big-hitting German who wasn’t even born when Date-Krumm first played at Wimbledon.