Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Two sides of the Coin: Date Krumm and Safina

Heartbreak for Dinara, Jubilation for Kimiko

Some are calling the upset shocking (Fox) and stunning (Yahoo). Others are calling it predictable. Some (like me) don't even think it was an upset.

Either way you slice it, the match between the 9th seed Dinara Safina and unseeded soon to be 40-year-old Kimiko Date Krumm was a crowd pleaser that was part psychological thriller and part fairy tale.

In defeating Safina, Date Krumm become the 2nd oldest woman to win a main draw match at Roland Garros (it was her first Grand Slam triumph in 14 years). The record still belongs to Virginia Wade, who was three months older than Krumm is today when she won a first round match at Roland Garros in 1985.

Still, being second to Wade did not do anything to dampen the spirits of the Japanese woman who returned to the game after a 13-year absence last year. Her unabashed joy at the conclusion of the match is the emotional high point of a French Open that is only three days in.

Date Krumm: I'm so happy I can't believe it

With the French fans showering her with boisterous applause, Date Krumm headed to the back of the court to get a hug and a kiss from members of her team. Her smile stretched from ear to ear, even as the injured calf that nearly forced her to retire earlier in the match was obviously bothering her a great deal.

But Date Krumm's soul-quenching quest for competition at the age of 39 is clearly more about the spirit than the body. She's not overly concerned about her second round match, saying, "I don't need to worry about the result. I don't need to worry about the money either. I had big successes in my first career."

Wow. If only Date Krumm's victim today could worry a little less about the results. If there ever was a tortured soul on the tennis court, it is Dinara Safina. Up a break in the second set, and up a double break in the third, Safina couldn't maintain her consistency down the stretch. It's no surprise, as the talented former No. 1 has, in addition to serious back issues, struggled mightily with her mental game in the last year.

Mightily, just for the record, might be a severe understatement in Safina's case.

One gets the impression that Safina is so haunted by fear of losing, that she simply can not bring herself to win, no matter how big a lead she gets. The Russian is strong physically, and she's a world-class ball striker, but until she can develop a reasonable sense of belief in herself she's going to be living the Groundhog day tennis nightmare - losing close matches in perpetuity that she could have won.

So, mixed emotions, as the glory of Kimiko Date Krumm's inspiring victory comes with the agony of yet another Dinara Safina setback. Their match today was a stunning picture of two women on divergent paths in life.

One is living the dream, while the other is living the nightmare.


  1. Or as P-Mac said, and although it's a worn cliche, it was the "thrill of victory and the agony of defeat" today.

    Like you said, this was not a shock upset as Date Krumm usually only loses when someone plays a steadier game than she, which is usually 90% of the rest of the tour. It was a wonderful moment for her and I hope she can go another round at least.

    As for Safina, her days in the "wilderness" may just be beginning. Unlike Ivanovic who just seemed to have confidence issues, Safina appears to be battling not only her body but the pressure of being, well not for the moment, a top player. It was interesting seeing Kuznetsova being asked about her own mini-slump the other day and her response was "I've won two Grand Slams so I should know how to improve my game".

    To see Sveta give a confident response and not seem worried shows that at the end it doesn't matter how many coaches one piles on, confidence has to come from within. Whether or not Safina can find that to save her career is something we'll find out.

  2. sometimes one has to suffer, to crash and burn; i believe Dinara will figure it out, and get through it, though; and find her way back to the top.


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