KIMIKO Date-Krumm set up a clash with Serena Williams as she became the oldest woman in the open era to reach the third round of Wimbledon.
The 42-year-old defeated Romania’s Alexandra Cadantu, who is almost half her age, on Court 12, where hundreds of Japanese fans had come to cheer on the veteran player.
Date-Krumm, a beaten semi-finalist in 1996, had to break three times to clinch the first set and she survived a bout of nerves to seal a 6-4, 7-5 win. It earned her a shot at the defending champion, who defeated French teenager Caroline Garcia on Court One.
The previous oldest woman to make the third round of Wimbledon in the open era was Britain’s Virginia Wade, who was 39 when she progressed to round three in her final Wimbledon 28 years ago.
Date-Krumm moved around the court superbly and broke 23-year-old Cadantu’s serve in the opening game. She then gave Cadantu three break points in the next game, but the Romanian only needed one to level.
A series of thrilling rallies ensued but Date-Krumm was unable to break again. Cadantu tried to seize on her opponent’s weak serve and took full advantage to break in the fifth game after a lucky net cord.
Date-Krumm was not fazed, however, and broke back immediately after the jitters hit Cadantu, who double-faulted twice. The Japanese fans rejoiced but Date-Krumm still needed to serve out to take the first set.
A tight game followed, but Date-Krumm smacked a cross-court forehand winner at 40-30 to spark more scenes of joy in the crowd.
Unlike in the first set, both players held firm on serve in the early stages of the second. Date-Krumm had to wait until the seventh game for a break point but she could not take it.
She did not make the same mistake in Cadantu’s next service game, however, as she broke to give herself a chance to serve out for the match. Nerves hit the former finalist as her serve was broken by Cadantu but she gave herself another chance to take the match when she broke again to move 6-5 ahead. And the veteran held firm to seal victory after one hour and 25 minutes on court, before heading off, not to take a rest but to prepare for a late-afternoon doubles assignment.
Williams, meanwhile, comfortably overcame Garcia. There was to be no shock on Court One as Williams racked up a 33rd successive victory against the up-and-coming youngster.
The American ran out a 6-3, 6-2 victor in one hour and six minutes, seeing off a valiant display from the 19-year-old, who is ranked 100th in the world.
Garcia’s performance was much better than in the pair’s only previous meeting, less than a month ago, when Williams steamrollered her way to victory en route to French Open glory.
The qualifier, who has yet to advance past the second round of an event, started aggressively and took the first game on serve without dropping a point. An impressive start was derailed after just 12 minutes when Williams broke for the first time.
While the 16-times grand slam winner was being forced to work by Garcia, she was never in real danger and broke again to take the first set in 30 minutes.
Williams looked composed and in control when play resumed, breaking six games into a second set in which Garcia continued to push.
And there was to be no stopping the American as she won in straight sets to set up that third-round match against Date-Krumm.
Asked to pick a winner between her younger self and the 2013 version, Williams said probably what every women’s player past or present has thought: “I wouldn’t want to play me at 21 or 31.”
The consolation prize for those hoping to see an end to her reign is that she will not be around forever and certainly not at 42 like Date-Krumm.
While the pair have never previously met, Williams’ big sister Venus came through a lengthy second round clash against the Japanese in 2011, eventually winning 8-6 in the third set.
Serena has not forgotten. She quipped: “I think I lost four years of my life watching that match.”
She added: “I have so much respect for her. I think she’s so inspiring to be playing such high-level tennis at her age. And she’s a real danger on the grass court. I definitely will have to be ready. It’s for sure not going to be easy, but I’ll be ready.”