MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA (AP) - Now that she’s 42, Kimiko Date-Krumm is older than some of her opponent’s parents.
Her memory is starting to get fuzzy, too. She can’t remember whom she played when she last won a match at the Australian Open _ but she remembers it was way back in 1996.
On Tuesday, the Japanese veteran became the oldest woman to win a singles match at Melbourne Park when she beat No. 12 Nadia Petrova 6-2, 6-0 in the first round.
After the match, she fielded a variety of questions about her secret to longevity in a sport filled with women half her age.
“Some players’ mothers are younger than me,” she laughed. “So it’s like (they’re) my daughter.”
Her advice to keeping fit: “I sleep a lot. I eat healthy foods. I drink a lot,” she said. Bedtime is usually before 10. “It’s a simple life, that’s it. Nothing special.”
The mindset that comes with her advanced age has helped her, she said, as did a long period of absence from the sport.
“After I stopped playing tennis in 1996, I never thought I would come back on the tour. But I love sports. I love tennis,” said Date-Krumm, who is ranked No. 100. She has won eight tour titles and more than $3 million dollars in prize money in her career.
She said she feels less stress about playing now that she’s older and is better equipped to manage all the attention. An increase of Asian athletes into international sports _ baseball, golf and now tennis _ has also helped her feel less pressure.
Since her comeback, she has failed to advance beyond the second round of a Grand Slam. But she has amassed a number of “oldest player” records. Among them: At 39, during the 2010 French Open, she became the oldest player to beat a Top 10 player. She then beat her own record later that year in Osaka after turning 40.
“I’m very happy to win today, but I don’t play for the records,” she said. “I’m playing for fun.”
Every year, she says, she’s asked when she’ll retire, but she doesn’t have an answer yet.
Will she still be playing into her 50s like Martina Navratilova did?
“I don’t think so, no,” she laughed.
Navratilova holds the record for the oldest woman to win a singles match at a Grand Slam, which came at Wimbledon in 2004 when she was 47 years, eight months.
She made her Grand Slam debut at the French Open in 1989 when Petrova was just 6 years old.
“She’s a tough cookie,” said Petrova, a 2010 quarterfinalist at Melbourne Park. “She played really well today. She didn’t give me any room to come back.”
Petrova agreed that a vacation from the sport that requires rigorous travel around the world could be a good thing.
“She took a 10-year break,” Petrova said, “so you know she might be fresher than most of us in our 30s.”