When asked if she’ll play at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japanese tennis icon Kimiko Date-Krumm sounded like the teenager she was when she first started playing pro tennis in the 1980s.
“Ehh? I’ll be 50 years old then!” she told a press conference after her early round win at the Toray Pan-Pacific Open in Tokyo. “I’m not Martina Navratilova. You’re asking if there’s a one percent chance? Well probably it’s 99.9999% I won’t, but I suppose you never say never 100%. It’s almost impossible, though I’d like to be involved in some capacity and support the next generation of players coming through.”
“When I heard about the (Sept 7) decision to host the Olympics in Tokyo, I didn’t think about playing myself, but obviously competing in the Olympics in Japan will give the younger players a huge boost and give them extra motivation.”
Even if she does lose a step in the next seven years, Date-Krumm might be a good choice for a mixed doubles partner looking for a cagey veteran with a solid net game. In the very least, Date-Krumm, one of the most inspirational athletes in Japan and the world, would be a perfect choice to carry the Olympic flame into the new Tokyo Olympic stadium.
For now, she’s thinking about helping younger Japanese tennis players. “As an athlete, I don’t want to have limits. Of course, I want to help the younger players to get better. It’s great to tennis in Japan. I want to support the other players as much as possible.”
Ranked no. 63 in the world coming into the $2.3 million event, she beat Anastasia Rodionova in the first round.
“I don’t think about my age anymore,” said Date-Krumm, who was ranked number 4 in the world back in 1995. “There’s not a big change between 41 and 42 years of age. I still want to win. There’s only one time to play in Tokyo. So, for me, it’s a really big thing to play here.”
“I’m not aiming for the top 10. Basically, I just try to play with joy, and stay healthy. These are the most important things. I’m just thinking about my match results, not so much about rankings. I don’t know where I’ll be in the rankings at the end of the year.”