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Tennis: Date-Krumm happy being oldest swinger in town

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(GlobalPost/GlobalPost)

Kimiko Date-Krumm cannot believe she has made the third round of Wimbledon at the age of 42 and is relishing the prospect of facing defending champion Serena Williams in a showpiece match on Saturday.

Date-Krumm, the oldest woman to reach the Wimbledon last 32 in the Open Era, has made it to the third round at the All England Club for the first time since her run to the semi-finals in 1996.

Williams, the world number one, is full of admiration for her evergreen Japanese opponent and the feeling is mutual.

"She's so strong. It's very, very difficult to beat her," said the world number 84.

Despite their combined decades on the tour -- Williams is 31 -- the two have never played each other, though Date-Krumm has crossed racquets with her older sister Venus.

"I played with Venus two years ago here, and this year in Miami. But, of course, there is a big difference between Venus and Serena. She (Serena) has more power and she has more, of course, speed. She has confidence. She has everything.

"So I need to try, just try my best. I hope I can stay more than one hour, an hour and a half.

"I still don't know if we will play on Centre Court. Two years ago when I played Venus, I played on Centre Court with the roof. Then I was feeling very good.

"When I was 25, in 1996, the Centre Court was very different."

The last time she made it this far at Wimbledon was that run to the last four, 17 years ago. Date-Krumm remembers it as clear as a bell.

She was defeated in a rain-delayed semi-final by German reigning champion Steffi Graf, who went on to beat Spain's Arantxa Sanchez Vicario for the title.

The match was tight and Graf did not want to play on in the fading light.

"The next day when I'm on the court, Steffi come back to normal and then she was so strong I had no chance," she said.

"But it was a good memory for me."

Date-Krumm said missing the clay court season -- barring her first round defeat at the French Open -- had helped her be fresh for Wimbledon.

"I'm very happy to be in the third round, even though I'm 42. I think it is amazing. I cannot believe it.

"But this year I skipped the clay court season. I didn't play. I tried to focus on the grass. Luckily this year I didn't play a seeded player in the first rounds -- because most of time I played the seeded player in the first round.

"It's working this time, so I'm very happy."

Date-Krumm is still a big draw with Japanese fans who make it to the All England Club -- whatever their age.

On Thursday she signed a baby's t-shirt after defeating Romania's Alexandra Cadantu 6-4, 7-5.

"One older lady, she said, I'm coming from Japan. Please, please, please. She said it more than 100 times. The baby, I don't know if it was a boy or girl, but they don't know anything. But the mother was so excited."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130627/tennis-date-krumm-happy-being-oldest-swinger-town