Saturday 29 June 2013
Renowned for their eagerness to embrace the cause of anyone suffering adversity, the British public – in the shape of a Centre Court crowd – found a new heroine this evening in a 42-year-old tennis player from Japan.
Kimiko Date-Krumm, who made her Wimbledon debut 24 years ago, was offered up as the sacrificial victim of the all-conquering Serena Williams in a third round match. She lost, of course, by a score of 6-2, 6-0 but her bravery and resilience and her ability to stretch the defending champion earned their admiration and loud backing.
That it was not quite the expected stroll was evident from the frequent self-encouraging bellows of "C'mon" from Serena. She was certainly giving it full throttle en route to what she and most tennis people think will be her sixth Wimbledon title.
Her progress so far has been, well, serene.
Just nine games conceded in her first two rounds, with Date-Krumm (she is married to the German racing driver Michel Krumm) able to capture two more. But how she battled to make a match of it under the Centre Court roof after the contest was switched from No.1 Court, where David Ferrer and Alexandr Dolgopolov were locked in a five-set marathon.
The Japanese had announced her first ambition was to extend the proceedings beyond the one-hour mark. In this she succeeded – just.– the official time being one hour one minute as Serena's match-winning shot, a backhand floater, clipped the side line.
Serena hit the first of her eight aces on the very first point, an ominous announcement of intention, but Kimiko clung on to her own serve, to the delight of the spectators, before Miss Williams surged into a 5-1 lead and served for the set, only to be broken after holding two set points when she miscued a forehand.
So excited were the crowd that they cranked up a Mexican Wave.
Having duly captured the Japanese serve to complete the first set, the 31-year-old American was only prevented from turning the second set into a procession by the determination of Date-Krumm to make a fight of it.
That she did so was much to her credit.
Serena paid handsome tribute to Date-Krumm, the oldest woman in the Open era to reached the third round at The Championships. "I never thought I would play into my thirties, which is why I have so much respect for Kimiko. She is so fit and so good."
Then she followed with ominous news for her opponents to come in the second week. "I feel better physically now than I have in a long time. I try to play better with each match, so going into the second week there are a lot of things I would like to improve."
Date-Krumm admitted she never felt there was any hope of an upset, praising Serena as "very special, her serve is so consistent".
Of her own ability to be playing tennis at a top level at the age of 42, she said "I have a special body compared to other 42-year-olds, have had no injuries, no surgery, everything is fine. And of course I eat healthy food."
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