Tuesday, May 25, 2010

39 years old and one functioning leg--impossible is nothing

Upsets, by definition, are dramatic. The upset that occurred today on Court Suzanne Lenglen in Paris had so much drama, describing it makes it sound like a TV movie. Former wold number 1 and 2009 French Open finalist Dinara Safina, playing her first round French Open match against Kimiko Date Krumm, was up 6-3, 4-6, 4-1 when things took a strange turn.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Date Krumm, former world number 4, returned to the tour in 2008, after retiring in 1997. Successful in challenger tournaments, she then won a tour tournament in Seoul in 2009, defeating Alisa Kleybanova, Daniela Hantuchova and Anabel Medina Garrigues along the way. Today, she showed up on Suzanne Lenglen with her right thigh heavily strapped. After taking the second set, she pulled the thigh muscle again in the third, and winced in pain.

With Safina serving at 4-3, Date Krumm could slowly limp, but--for all practical purposes--could not move. She got some help from Safina, who continued the double-fault pattern she established early in the match. But Date-Krumm, standing in one place, also hit a couple of winners, and broke Safina. She then received some treatment from the trainer, held her serve, then appeared to be in extreme pain when the trainer manipulated her thigh during the changeover. She then broke Safina for a 3-6, 6-4, 7-5 victory.

Safina double-faulted 17 times, and was plainly in distress throughout much of the match, which lasted 2 hours and 34 minutes. Whether Date Krumm will be able to go on, or at least go on without pain, is unknown at this time. Her next opponent is Jarmila Groth. Safina's next opponent is her biggest one--herself. It can't be easy for her, returning to the tour after having sustained a serious injury and after not playing for so long. But even before she was injured, the Russian was preoccupied with fighting her own demons.

Date Krumm, on the other hand, had mental toughness to spare, and is surely the player of the day.

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