It used to be cliche when a new rock star, technology or idea was tagged with the line  “It’s big in Japan.” This would be the signal for your to roll your eyes dismiss the subject. This time it’s about a tennis player from the past. Kimiko Date-Krumm was “Big in Japan” twelve years ago. Now at the advanced age of 40 she’s playing Venus Williams in the prestigious high court of tennis, Wimbledon. Date-Krumm was once ranked as high as 4th when she retired from tennis citing the pressure of the media, herself and exhaustion from the sport.

“Before as a player, it was too much practice, too much traveling, too much pressure, so it was difficult to see how good sports can be,” she said. “After one week you would travel to another city. It was a little bit too much, too strict, so I couldn’t enjoy the tennis any more.”

 

 

So while ranked 8th in the world she quite suddenly retired. Japan lost it’s hero and their greatest tennis player since…. well actually ever. For both the Men’s and the Ladies, Date-Krumm has been the highest ranked Japaneses tennis player in the history of the sport. She’s a true international sports star, perhaps the greatest individual sportsperson ever from the tiny island state of of Japan.

“After I retired in 1996, I enjoyed my life and got married, but a few years later, I started teaching kids in Japan and I changed my mind about how good tennis is.”

It’s hard not the root for Date-Krumm. She’s small, quick and humble and the definite underdog against a giant of the sport, the impressive Venus Williams. “I thought it was amazing when she came back,” Williams said of Date-Krumm. “I watched her results. She’s been playing so well. I always root for her actually. But this time I’m playing her, so I will be rooting for me this time.”

 

 

Standing at 6’1″, and considered a veteran at 31 years of age Ms. Williams is a queen of Wimbledon having won the tournament five times. Athletic, elegant and graceful, Ms. Williams also possesses the games fastest serve which thunders on at an incredible 185 km per hour. So with a chorus of Venus grunts and matching high pitched Japanese squeaks the two played an epic battle of tennis in the second round.

After a stunning beginning Date-Krumm leap out to an early 5 to 1 lead and managed to win the tight tiebreaker to win the first set. Venus Williams then came back strongly and won the second set 6 to 3. This set up the final set where Date-Krumm evened the match at 5-5 after a series of extended rallies consisting of multiple back and forth play. The game ended with Ms. Williams beating Date-Klumm in the final set 8 to 6. A epic battle against a very worthy opponent.

The good news is the hero of Japanese tennis is back, her name is Kimiko Date-Krumm and she’s over 40 years old.