Game, Set, Comeback

April 11, 2008 at 9:43 am Leave a comment

Yahoo! News. reports that Japan’s most successful tennis star Kimiko Date is coming out of retirement. In 1994, she was the 4th ranked female player in the world, with several career titles, including four Japan Open victories. She was also the first Japanese woman in two decades to reach the Grand Slam semifinal at the Australian Open. She quit the game in 1996, at the age of 25, after making it to the semifinals in Wimbledon and beating Steffi Graf at the Federation Cup in Tokyo. When Date left, she had slipped a few spots to #8, but she was still a formidable opponent on the court.

How does someone re-enter the world of professional sports after 12 years away? Well, she didn’t exactly spend her time off watching TV and eating mochi ice cream; she participated in some doubles tournaments in 2002 for the Japan Open and kept fit by playing against Martina Navratilova and former rival Steffi Graf in exhibition matches in Tokyo. Still, this has got to be one for the record books. Now 37 years old, she’ll be one of tennis’s oldest players on the professional circuit.

She’s the first to admit it will be an uphill battle: “…I’m older now, I’m married and I have a different outlook,” she told Reuters Japan on April 7th. “I wanted to give something back to tennis. I’m going to take things gradually, to get a feel for where my game is. I’m not expecting miracles.”

Her many fans might argue with that assessment!

Date was born in Kyoto but now lives in Tokyo. During her time off from tennis, she married a German racecar driver and also starred in a TV ad for the Toyota Prius.

Sarah S.

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April 2008