Kimiko Date-Krumm has launched a stinging attack on the under-achieving youngsters contributing to plummeting standards in Japanese tennis.
At 42, Date-Krumm is the oldest woman competing in the main draw at Wimbledon, but age trumped youth on Tuesday as the Japanese veteran crushed Carina Witthoeft, an 18-year-old German qualifier, 6-0, 6-2 in just 44 minutes.
She next plays Austrian 28th seed Tamira Paszek or Romania’s Alexandra Cadantu as she seeks to emulate her run to the third round of the Australian Open in January
But Date-Krumm, a Wimbledon semi-finalist in 1996 who puts her longevity down to a love of tea, believes such success should be far more commonplace for Japan’s players.
Only three Japanese women made the main draw, with world number 94 Misaki Doi already knocked out by Silvia Soler-Espinosa on Monday.
“Morita? She’s in the top 50. Then Doi is top 100. She’s 21, 22, something like this. But not so many young players are coming to the top 100 level,” Date-Krumm said.
“I don’t know why. It’s very difficult. I’m very disappointed, because in the 1990s Japan had 10 people in the top 100.
“They need more fight. If they do just normal, they have no chance because we are not tall. We are not so big compared to western people. So we need something special; otherwise there is no chance to beat the other players.
“And also they need to open their hearts more, and then they need to understand how to study the game, how to go to top 100 level and then the top 50 level.”
Date-Krumm, playing in her 103rd Grand Slam match and competing at the All England Club for the 12th time, enjoyed a fairytale run to the Wimbledon semi-finals in 1996 before suddenly announcing her retirement.
However, encouraged by her German motor racing driver husband Michael Krumm, she returned to the women’s tour in 2008 and enjoyed two notable landmarks, becoming the oldest player to beat a top-10 opponent and the second oldest to win a WTA Tour title when she triumphed in Seoul aged 38.
“When I was 25 I stopped tennis and I never thought I would miss it,” she said.
“But I came here many years for the TV commentary. I was watching from outside the court and I thought tennis is such a beautiful sport. Then a little bit I start to change my mind.
“When I was young I wanted to be the top 10 so I always had pressure. I didn’t enjoy it so much. But when I came back, I enjoyed it very much, even I’m losing.
“I have a lot of passion. I like the challenge because it’s not easy for my age.”
Date-Krumm said she carefully manages her training schedule to avoid burn-out and drinks a lot of Chinese tea.
“I’m taking care of my body, because of course the most difficult thing is recovery. I need more training. But if I do too much I feel tired,” she said.
“I like Chinese tea. Sometimes Japanese tea. I drink a lot. I have a tea pot I always I carry. It’s here with me now.”
Her wealth of experience also gives her an advantage on the mental side of the game at a time when so many players rely on overwhelming opponents with brute force.
“Now women’s tennis, compared to my generation, is more speedy, more powerful,” she said.
“But tennis is not only power, not only speed, not only for young players. In tennis you also need mental skill and experience.
“That’s why it’s not only younger players that can go to the top level anymore.”
smg/djPublished 25 Jun 2013, 19:09 IST