Date-Krumm, who was born in Kyoto in 1970, has not played tennis continuously. In fact, she retired at the age of 26, after reaching a high of number 4 in the world, winning a total of seven WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) titles, and defeating leading women players of that era such as American Pam Shriver and Spaniard Conchita Martinez at major events However, she kept herself fit by running marathons and competing in triathlons. After overcoming former top players Steffi Graf and Martina Navratilova in exhibition matches in 2007, she decided to return to the tennis circuit, partly, she says, as a way to act as a role model for the younger generation of players. She admits that her body doesn’t recover as fast as that of younger players, but she has the advantage of maturity and maintaining calm, even when losing. Her comeback can perhaps be compared to that of nine times Wimbledon champion and former number 1 Martina Navratilova, who returned to the circuit in 2000, aged 43, after retiring in 1994, but played mostly doubles thereafter.
Interestingly, Date-Krumm is naturally left-handed but, in accordance with Japanese custom, was encouraged to use her right hand for all activities, including when she began playing tennis at age 6. However, she is known sometimes to switch to her left hand in order to retrieve a ball. She uses a short-swing, double-handed backhand and hits the ball very flat. Even at her venerable age, she continues to display an impressive athleticism on the court, traits necessitated by her short stature (1.63 m).
Date Krumm’s longevity and success have arguably made her one of the best known Japanese female athletes internationally. In Japan, she serves as a role model, not just for tennis players but for women in general: “Many women her age, who stay at home while their “salaryman” husbands are working, wish they could go back to doing the same work they used to do,” said Toshio Noji, director of the Toray Japan Open, in 2010. Date Krumm’s husband since 2001 is not exactly a Japanese “salaryman” but Michael Krumm, a German racing car driver, who is entirely supportive of her tennis career and encourages her not to give it up to have children.
Obviously, Date-Krumm would not continue playing if she did not love the game, love practicing and love the tour. Moreover, she believes that her twelve year absence helped extend her career. And, no, she has no plans for retiring.
Partly based on my article on Date-Krumm at my blog Faces of Tennis
Additional reference: Yahoo! Sports