After Wimbledon’s “Wacky Wednesday,” it was perhaps fitting that yesterday belonged to 42-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm, who played her first major when her next opponent -- defending champion Serena Williams -- was 7 years old.
Seven-time winner Roger Federer and 2004 champion Maria Sharapova lost in upsets two days ago, and injuries wiped out a one-day record seven players from the singles draws at the All England Club in London, leading the British Broadcasting Corp. to dub it “Wacky Wednesday.”
Normal order resumed yesterday until Japan’s Date-Krumm chipped and charged her way past Romania’s Alexandra Cadantu 6-4, 7-5 to become the oldest woman to reach the third round at Wimbledon since tennis turned professional in 1968. Cadantu, 23, was born a year after Date-Krumm played in her first major.
“I cannot believe it,” said Date-Krumm, a former world No. 4 who lost to Germany’s Steffi Graf in the 1996 Wimbledon semifinals. “I’m very happy to be the third round, even though I’m 42.”
Today, the fifth day of Wimbledon, Britain’s Andy Murray plays Spain’s Tommy Robredo while David Ferrer, the No. 4 seed, faces fellow Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut. Petra Kvitova, the champion two years ago from the Czech Republic, meets Russia’s Ekaterina Makarova.
Date-Krumm, who quit tennis at 26 before making a comeback five years ago following an 11-year hiatus, said she skipped the clay-court season in order to focus on the grass.
“Luckily, this year I didn’t play a seeded player in the first rounds, because most of the time I have played the seeded player in the first round,” said Date-Krumm, who is ranked 84th in the world.
After winning her match against Cadantu, Date-Krumm was greeted by Virginia Wade outside Court 12. Wade, Britain’s last Wimbledon singles champion, had been the oldest woman to reach the third round when she was 39 in 1985.
Next up is Williams, an American who dropped five games during her second-round defeat yesterday of French teenager Caroline Garcia.
“I watched Kimiko when I was much younger, I don’t know how she is able to do so well,” said the French Open champion, who at 31 is the oldest woman to be ranked No. 1 on the women’s WTA tour. “She’s so inspiring.”
Date-Krumm said she is hoping for rain and a match scheduled on Centre Court, so she can play under the roof against the most dominant player of her generation. Williams has lost only three matches since a first-round defeat at last year’s French Open, and is trying to win her sixth Wimbledon title and 17th major.
“She’s so strong,” said Date-Krumm, who pushed Serena’s older sister and five-time champion, Venus Williams, to three sets on a rainy day under the roof two years ago. “There is a big difference between Venus and Serena. Serena has more power and she has more speed. She has confidence. She has everything. Just try my best. I hope I can stay more than one hour, one hour half.”
Williams said she’d talk to her sister about Date-Krumm, who in her comeback has beaten former Grand Slam champions Sharapova and Li Na of China with an unorthodox playing style that absorbs the power of the opponent.
“Kimiko has great hand-to-eye coordination,” Williams said. “She returns unbelievable shots. Doesn’t matter how hard you hit it, she sees the ball and gets it back. She has great hands, has a wonderful great volley, comes to the net a lot, which on grass can be tricky.”
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