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Date-Krumm proves the power of brain over brawn in tennis

by Marika Sboros, July 02 2013, 11:40
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GOING HIGH: Kimiko Date-Krumm of Japan hits a return to US player Serena Williams in their women’s singles tennis match at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships at the weekend. Picture: REUTERS
GOING HIGH: Kimiko Date-Krumm of Japan hits a return to US player Serena Williams in their women’s singles tennis match at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships at the weekend. Picture: REUTERS

YOU could forgive her for looking and feeling totally humiliated after her defeat by the Serena Williams tennis machine at Wimbledon on Saturday.

Or for gloating at the unceremonious exit on Monday of Williams, the world No 1 tennis player, who lost to German Sabine Lisicki, ranked a lowly 23.

It’s just not 42-year-old Japanese tennis player Kimiko Date-Krumm’s style to look backwards, feel unnecessary shame or gloat at someone else’s loss.

She is known as much for her generosity of spirit as for the rarity of her comeback to tennis in 2008 after a 12-year hiatus. Few sports stars ever manage or bother to do that. The mind may be willing but the flesh would mostly be too old to compete against the young bloods.

Not so Date-Krumm. She doesn’t appear even to have entertained the thought of not being able to win some matches, once she set her mind on a comeback.

Since her return, she has been happily rewriting tennis history books: the oldest player in the Wimbledon draw in 2013; the oldest woman to reach the third round at the tournament, since the open era began in 1968; and in January 2013, the oldest woman to win at the Australian Open.

So no, she won’t be nursing a deflated ego despite her decisive defeat by Williams, a player more than a decade younger. On the contrary, Date-Krumm is more likely to say she “enjoyed losing the match”.

That’s not because she is a masochist. She is a realist, a pragmatist, and is sounding more and more like a Buddhist these days.

She proves the power of brain over brawn in tennis. She is quoted as saying the sport, which she looks on as “beautiful”, is “not only power, not only speed” — and “not only for young players”.

It is also about mental strength, Date-Krumm says, and experience, which makes it no longer true that only younger, stronger players can reach the top.

There has been much talk in the media about the lifestyle habits that have contributed to Date-Krumm’s remarkable longevity on the international tennis circuit.

In one concession to her age, she says she has to “take care” of her body more these days, and recovery is “the most difficult thing”.

She happily shares all her health “secrets”. One of them, not surprisingly, is tea — Chinese and Japanese.

Media reports quote Date-Krumm as saying she drinks lots of green tea. I’ve only ever heard her say Chinese and Japanese tea. Both come from the same bush — Camellia sinensis; both come in healing hues that include green, but also black, white, red and yellow, depending on the picking stage and processing they go through

Green tea has been most widely researched, with studies pointing to its extensive antioxidant properties and healing benefits but white tea is rapidly catching up, with some research suggesting it may be even more effective on the health front.

Date-Krumm also says she “eats a lot” — much more than her coach eats, and much more than her husband, German racing car driver Michael Krumm, who she met at Le Mans and married in 1998.

She also sleeps a lot. She makes sure to get at least nine hours of restful sleep each night, which is the right prescription for rest that is regenerative, and rejuvenating for body and mind.

She also clearly knows about the value of emotional balance that can contribute to consistent optimum physical performance.

She looks up to her husband as a role model who, at the same age as her, is still racing and “trying his best”, she says.

He encourages her to relax more before big matches.

In the end, it is Date-Krumm’s mindful approach to her sport that makes her such a good role model for other players and not just on the tennis court.

She has all the passion but also all the enjoyment of tennis — even when she’s losing.

She sees sport in its proper perspective, as part of a balanced life, a journey, not a destination. 

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