Twentyone-year-old Yi-Miao Zhou was not even born when her second-round opponent turned pro. Yet, after two hours and 11 minutes out on centre-court on Thursday, if anyone was looking spent it wasn’t Kimiko Date-Krumm.
The 42-year-old rode out a few rough moments early in the third set, and then watched, benignly, as Zhou imploded.
At one stage during the 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 victory that earned her a spot in the quarterfinals of the Royal Indian Open, Date-Krumm had been in danger of being slugged out of the contest, by a competitor younger (half her age) and significantly stronger.
But as she pointed out earlier in the week, her game had never been about power. “Right from 20 years ago, I was forced to think and learn to use the opponent’s power,” she said.
“When I go to the gym these days, I find every single player is there, when earlier it was barely a handful. The game today is extremely physical. But it’s not a problem — I have never played that way.”
Date-Krumm’s troubles began in the second set, after a tight first where she had earned a decisive break in the seventh game and stepped ahead. Zhou’s service wasn’t the greatest but her strokes grew harder, her double-fisted backhand too often successful.
Date-Krumm visibly struggled under the assault, and two saved set points notwithstanding, surrendered.
In the third set, the Chinese ran up an early 2-0 lead — the two games punctuated by a medical time-out for Date-Krumm. Thereafter, though, things turned on their head.
Her coach Pablo Eguiguren later said she’d had trouble sighting the ball, but whatever it was, Zhou suddenly crumbled. The service disintegrated and the returns simply didn’t seem to land in.
Date-Krumm strolled through the next six games, and produced — like a metaphor for her remarkable two-part career — a fine comeback.
“In the beginning, I was a little embarrassed,” she said here, recalling her decision to come out of a 12-year-retirement in 2008. “I was thinking, oh my God, she’s my daughter’s age! Now I just poke fun at myself. I don’t ask players how old they are; I ask them how old their mother is.”
In Friday’s quarterfinals, Date-Krumm will face compatriot Misaki Doi after the second seed trampled over Thailand’s N. Lertcheewakarn 6-0, 6-1.
The top seed Nina Bratchikova, meanwhile, defeated Olga Savchuk 6-1, 6-1 to set up a last-eight clash with Andrea Petkovic. The latter demolished Chang Liu 6-1, 6-0.
The results: Singles: Second round: Nina Bratchikova (Rus) bt Olga Savchuk (Ukr) 6-1, 6-1; Misaki Doi (Jap) bt N. Lertcheewakarn (Tha) 6-0, 6-1; Kimiko Date-Krumm (Jap) bt Yi-Miao Zhou (Chn) 6-4, 4-6, 6-2; Andrea Petkovic (Ger) bt Chang Liu (Chn) 6-1, 6-0.
Doubles: Quarterfinals: Bratchikova & Oksana Kalashnikova (Geo) bt Savchuk & E. Svitolina (Ukr) 7-5, 6-2.
Correction: The photograph carried in the story earlier was that off Misaki Doi and not Kimiko Date-Krumm. The error is regretted.