Kimiko Date-Krumm is blazing a trail for 40-and-older tennis players at the Australian Open and may not stop anytime soon.
The 42-year-old from Japan yesterday became the second-oldest woman to reach the third round of a Grand Slam tournament by beating Shahar Peer of Israel 6-2, 7-5 at Melbourne Park. Following her win, the Tokyo resident joked that she could play for another five years.
“Not easy. I need new body,” she told reporters.
Date-Krumm, who reached a career-high ranking of No. 4 in 1995, has been setting age records since coming out of retirement in 2008. She became the oldest player to beat a top 10-ranked opponent in 2010. Later that year she got back into the top 50 the month before she turned 40, becoming the oldest to do so since Billie Jean King at age 40 in March 1984.
Her opening-round upset of No. 12 seed Nadia Petrova of Russia three days ago made her the oldest woman to win a singles match at the Australian Open, where she reached the 1994 semifinals, losing to eventual champion Steffi Graf.
Yesterday’s victory put her only behind Renee Richards, who was 45 years, 8 days old when she reached the third round of the 1979 U.S. Open, in terms of a run to the last 32 at a major.
She’ll next face an opponent half her age in 56th-ranked Bojana Jovanovski of Serbia, who ousted 17th-seeded Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic.
Date-Krumm said that whenever she now speaks with Graf, the winner of 22 Grand Slam singles titles encourages her to quit playing and start a family. Graf, 43, has two children with four-time Australian Open champion Andre Agassi.
“When I see Steffi, she say to me, ‘You should stop now and make the baby,”’ said Date-Krumm, who is married to German racecar driver Michael Krumm.
While other ex-rivals from the 1990s offer her words of encouragement, Date-Krumm said they often have another message.
“Everybody say to me, ‘You are crazy,”’ she said. “First word is always, ‘you are crazy.’ But they support me a lot.”