Safina humiliated by 39-year-old who sat out game for 12 years

When Kimiko Date Krumm made her debut here 21 years ago, 26 of the women's field at this year's French Open had not been born. The 39-year-old Japanese had been in retirement for 12 years before she came back two years ago and until yesterday had not won a match at a Grand Slam tournament since 1996.

No wonder there were tears of joy after Date Krumm poured the latest dose of misery over Dinara Safina, runner-up at Roland Garros for the last two years, by winning their first-round match 3-6, 6-4, 7-5. She was cramping badly after two and a half hours on Court Suzanne Lenglen, but was still too good for the 2008 and 2009 runner-up, who has won only one match since the Australian Open. Safina, world No 1 only seven months ago, is likely to drop out of the top 20 as a result of this latest humiliation.

Kimiko Date, who changed her name after marrying the German racing driver Michael Krumm, made her professional debut in 1988, reached No 4 in the world and made the semi-finals both here in 1995 and at Wimbledon the following year, where she was getting the better of Steffi Graf until a rain break came to the German's rescue.

After retiring she did not pick up a racket for two years, but kept fit and started running marathons. She ran in London in 2004, finishing in under three and a half hours.

Asked yesterday why she had returned to tennis, the world No 72 pointed at her husband, who was standing at the back of the room, and said: "He loves tennis and he kept saying to me, 'Why don't you play one more time, just for fun?'" To his apparent embarrassment she added another reason: "We tried to make a baby but nothing happened."

Having started her comeback in 2008, Date Krumm won her first title for 12 years in Seoul last September. In beating Safina, she became the second-oldest woman to win a Grand Slam match in the Open era after Virginia Wade, who was three months older when she reached the second round of the Australian Open in 1985.

Safina parted company earlier this month with her coach, Zeljko Krajan, and has teamed up with the Argentine Gaston Etlis, who used to work with Guillermo Canas. He clearly has his work cut out. Safina has been troubled by a back injury in recent months, but her confidence appears in even worse shape.

Having won the first set, the 24-year-old Russian made an increasing number of mistakes and gradually lost her composure, smashing her racket to the floor. On the final two points she hit dreadful forehand and backhand shots way beyond the baseline.

On a good day for former retirees, Justine Henin, playing her first match here for three years, extended her winning run on these courts to 22 matches and 37 sets when she beat Bulgaria's Tsvetana Pironkova 6-4, 6-3. The four-times French Open champion, who came out of retirement earlier this year, has not lost at Roland Garros since 2004.

It was a less than convincing display and the 27-year-old Belgian warned that she expected 2010 to be "a year of transition." She added, "Next year is more realistic to think I can be at my best level."

Britain's interest in the women's singles ended when Katie O'Brien suffered a disappointing 6-0, 4-6, 6-2 defeat to the veteran American, Jill Craybas. O'Brien recovered from a slow start to dominate the second set but made too many mistakes. "I didn't need to play my best to win," she said. "I could have won that playing mediocre, but my level was just too inconsistent."

Rafael Nadal began his quest for a fifth French title with a routine 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 victory over France's Gianni Mina, while Andy Roddick, playing his first match of the clay-court season following a stomach virus, beat Finland's Jarkko Nieminen 6-2, 4-6, 4-6, 7-6, 6-3.

Another American, Sam Querrey, the No 18 seed, said he would head home after losing 4-6, 7-6, 6-4, 6-2 to Robby Ginepri. Asked if he was not entered to play doubles here with John Isner, Querrey replied: "I am right now. I won't be in about an hour."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links