Tokyo – Japan’s Kimiko Date, the grande dame of women’s
tennis, bowed out of the sport after being thrashed 6-0, 6-0 by Aleksandra
Krunic at the Japan Women’s Open on Tuesday.
The former world number four, who turns 47 later this month,
was simply no match for a Serbian opponent who at 24 is young enough to be
Krunic took just 49 minutes to inflict the dreaded
“double bagel” on Date in a lop-sided first round encounter in Tokyo.
Date tried gamely to mix up her shots in the second set but
to no avail as Krunic, ranked 67th in the world, blasted winners past her at
Krunic continued to swing away from the baseline and put the
former Wimbledon semi-finalist out of her misery with a huge forehand which
Date could only dump into the net.
“It’s finally over,” a tearful Date told fans,
many of whom were sobbing themselves.
“I feel sad mostly I guess but also really grateful for
what tennis has given me,” said the eight-time WTA Tour singles champion,
who took a 12-year hiatus from professional tennis after quitting at the peak
of her powers in 1996.
Date, a wiry 1.63 metres, underwent two knee surgeries since
appearing at the 2016 Australian Open, but defied the odds to return to action
in May this year.
The Kyoto native, presented with flowers and a trophy in an
emotional ceremony after the match, has also been nursing a sore shoulder and
it showed against Krunic.
“A lot of things were going through my head this
morning but during the match I was just trying everything I could to win a
game,” said Date after taking just 13 points off her opponent.
“I just didn’t have it physically. It feels strange to
be retired but I have to accept it. At the end I was relieved I hadn’t made my
Date, whose game is a throwback to a time when tennis was
more about lobs, dinks and clever use of spin than power-hitting, showed brief
glimpses of her former pomp.
After warming up to Donna Summer’s “Hot Stuff”,
Date was anything but and lacked the power to trouble Krunic, who after
embracing Date told her she had started the match as a nervous wreck.
“I want to apologise,” she said after completing
the whitewash. “I don’t like that I had to be the one but Kimiko has had a
“I was a mess at the beginning,” added Krunic, who
next faces American Alison Riske.
“When I go back to the locker room, I’ll probably
Date broke several tennis records, most notably at the Korea
Open in 2009 when she became the second-oldest player in the modern era – after
Billie Jean King – to win a WTA singles title.
Despite playing on until the ripe old age of 46, Date still
fell some way short of her idol Martina Navratilova, who retired a month shy of
her 50th birthday in 2006.
Date insisted she had no desire to become a coach in the
“No, I’m definitely not cut out for that,” she
laughed. “But I don’t feel like I did when I first retired and didn’t want
to go near a tennis court again. I’ll stick to just watching.”