On two nights in a row, Tamarine Tanasugarn and Kimiko Date-Krumm busted the myth that tennis is only a young woman's game.
Date-Krumm fought off a second-set slump and leg cramps early in the third set, to beat Yi-Miao Zhou 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 in the second round of the Royal Indian Open on Thursday. The Japanese veteran's victory came within 24 hours of Tanasugarn conquering young Turk Cagla Buyukakcay 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 on Wednesday.
So, Date-Krumm at 42, and Tanasugarn at 35, the oldest players in the tournament, still made the last eight in the draw of 32. Since her comeback to tennis in 2008 after a 12-year hiatus, Date-Krumm has cracked the top-100, and more importantly has now made peace with the fact that she is battling players almost half her age.
"I found that a bit unusual when I first came back," says Date-Krumm, who next faces compatriot and second seed Miaski Doi, who is exactly half her age. "Now I am used to it. Now I don't ask players, 'How old are you?' Rather I ask them, 'How old is your mother?'" The "youngest mother" she has encountered recently, she says, was only 37.
A former semifinalist at Wimbledon and world No 4, the Japanese says she is still motivated to do the hard yards on the tour, play smaller tournaments to empty stands to climb the rankings ladder.
"It's a little different to play Futures events after all these years," she says. "In most matches there, there are no ball boys, no line umpires. It's different, but right now I am enjoying the challenge."
Thai veteran Tanasugarn wraps her muscles with icepacks to help with the recovery after playing a long match like she did on Wednesday. But she insists she still loves the game enough to go through the pain.
Players like Date-Krumm and Tanasugarn haven't let age define them, but let it shape their success.