Ara is a journalism graduate from California State University, Northridge, who is always looking to explore his writing opportunities.
Kimiko Date-Krumm Has Defied the Odds and Proves That Age Really Is Just a Number
Aging is a normal part of the lifespan. You hear about this everywhere you go. When a person has a birthday and becomes 40 for example, people say something like “Wow! Brad just turned 40.” Or if the person becomes 50 or 60, they say that he or she turns 50 or turns 60 years old. Age has become so much of a popular term in society that it is like once someone reaches the age of 59 or 60, the questions about retirement, Social Security and Medicare come up. While it is true that the majority of people do retire at some point, why should we look at the age of 65 as a time where someone should retire and do nothing productive? This article will actually take a look at the careers of one of the oldest tennis players in order to put perspective on the issue of aging. That person is Kimiko Date (previously known as Kimiko Date-Krumm) before her divorce. Age in sports is also seen as a big deal especially when a tennis player reaches their 30’s. But for Kimiko Date, that just seems to be a number and you will find out later in the article. Kimiko Date-Krumm was married to German Michael Krumm from 2001 through 2016.
Kimiko Date-Krumm After a Beach Tennis Match in New Zealand in 2009
Kimiko Date: Her Life and Career
Date got into the sport of tennis when she was just 6 years old. Although she is originally left-handed, she was encouraged to learn how to play with her right hand because of a Japanese custom. She experienced success early in her life when she became a tennis champion at Sonoda High School. Kimiko Date has been playing professionally since 1989. 1989 was also the same year that Michael Chang won the French Open title. So Date has seen lots of things as a tennis player. In 2004, Kimiko Date ran the London Marathon in just three hours and thirty minutes. But what makes Kimiko Date and interesting tennis player to read about is the fact that she holds many tennis records as they pertain to the oldest players. Some of them are here:
- She became the oldest player ever to beat a player ranked in the Top 10 when she beat Dinara Safina at the 2010 French Open. Date was then 39 years, 7 months, and 26 days old.
- She would surpass that mark when she beat Australia’s Samantha Stosur in Osaka at the age of 40.
- Kimiko Date is the second oldest player to win a title on tour when she won in Seoul, South Korea at 38.
- Kimiko Date is also the second oldest player to reach a grand slam third round. She did this twice in 2013 when she reached the third round of both the Australian Open and Wimbledon.
- Kimiko Date was ranked inside the Top 50 in 2010 and she became the oldest player on the tour to do so since American tennis star Billie Jean King in 1984.
Kimiko Date-Krumm at the 2015 Wimbledon Qualifying Round
Perspective On Aging in Other Sports
Don’t get trapped into what society thinks. Age is really only just a number and you can be young in your heart no matter how old your calendar age shows you are. Just think of all the professional ice hockey players that play or have played well into their 40’s such as Steve Yzerman, Chris Chelios, Mark Recchi, Dominik Hasek and the list goes on. Do you think that these guys ever thought about how old they were getting? Probably not because they were so busy playing the game that they loved that it is highly unlikely that they thought about their age. Now you may not be a hockey player like these people but it will really help you if you have the mentality that your age really doesn’t matter very much if you are living life the way that you want to live it.
What is the Secret to the Sucess of Kimiko Date?
Kimiko Date has not allowed age to deter her ambitions. What does this have to do with aging? In May of 2016, Kimiko Date announced that she was trying to make a comeback. Actually, she had been away from the sport of tennis since 1996 even though she was ranked in the Top 10. Her departure from the game was seen as a shock. But since she had a second run at her tennis career, Kimiko Date has beaten players such as Maria Sharapova, Li Na, and Sabine Lisicki. Why did these players lose to such an older tennis player? They lost due to what is described as her “old-school style of play, featuring flat ground strokes, hitting on the rise and skills at the net,” (CAMBERS 2016). What has been the reason for Date’s incredible fitness that allows her to play such a demanding sport? She does weight lifting and interval training. In addition to this, she has a traditional Japanese diet along with green tea and plenty of sleep. Kimiko returned to playing professionally in 2008.
Kimiko Date and Her Comeback Plans
Kimiko Date still is planning to play competitive tennis in 2017. The only thing that is holding her back is that she has to recover from knee surgery that she underwent back in April 2016. Kimiko Date wanted to take the time to let the muscle heal. She said: “Everything has gone well up to this point and it has not put limitations on my daily life. As an athlete, you have to condition muscles and I want the injury to properly heal," (Sky Sports 2016).
Kimiko Date-Krumm in 2011
Kimiko Date Krumm Now Has Her Own Bakery
What Makes Kimiko Date a Sort of Ageless Wonder in the Tennis World?
Everything has gone well for a person that wants to continue playing a sport that requires tremendous speed, skill, and athleticism. The fact that Kimiko Date still wants to play professional tennis at such an advanced age is remarkable. If we want to look at a similar example on the men’s side of the game, Jimmy Connors played professionally until age 43 in 1995. Kimiko Date will more than likely shatter that mark and become the oldest tennis player active on the tour ever! Kimiko Date had her most success in the Grand Slam tournaments in 1994 through 1996. She reached the semifinals of the Australian Open in 1994, the French Open in 1995, and also during the Wimbledon Championships in 1996. If players such as Serena Williams are watching, they may be about to face some competition soon. Whether Kimiko Date will beat one of the top players in the world again or not remains to be seen. But with her good diet and dedication to the game, she really proves that age is nothing more than just a number.
Kimiko Date-Krumm Keeps Things Simple and Enjoys Tennis
Kimiko Date Announces Her Retirement Putting An End to an Interesting Career
However, in August 2017, Date announced that she would be retiring from the professional tennis scene because recurring injuries to her shoulder and knees would not allow her to play at the level that she wanted to. She was asked if she had any regrets about her career and she gave a very interesting response, saying: “If I didn’t have to quit, I wouldn’t quit,” she said half-jokingly. “But because I no longer have the right (mental and physical) balance, I think it’s difficult to continue to play on a tour,” (Nagatsuka 2017). When an athlete has the feeling that they have to call it a career then that is the wisest course of action to take. Kimiko Date’s career is proof that age really is just a number.
CAMBERS, SIMON. 2016. The New York Times. May 16. Accessed January 19, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/17/sports/tennis/kimiko-date-krumm-knee-surgery-french-open.html?_r=0.
Nagatsuka, Kaz. 2017. The Japan Times. September 7. Accessed December 1, 2017. https://www.japantimes.co.jp/sports/2017/09/07/more-sports/tennis/tennis-icon-kimiko-date-hangs-up-her-racket-at-age-46/#.WiGdFkqnHcs.
2016. Sky Sports. September 22. Accessed January 19, 2017. http://www.skysports.com/tennis/news/12110/10588128/kimiko-date-krumm-hoping-to-play-tennis-again-in-2017.
© 2017 Ara Vahanian