Kimiko Date has brought to a close a professional tennis career spanning almost 30 years.
Playing in front of home fans at the Japan Women’s Open in Tokyo, Date fell 6-0 6-0 to Serbia’s Aleksandra Krunic in the first round.
The 46-year-old, currently ranked outside the top 1000, was playing just her fifth event in 2017, a season marred by injury. She was forced to missed 16 months – and almost the entire 2016 season – due to knee injury which required a cartilage transplant.
With her mobility affected, she had already made the decision to step away from the game.
“It was a big memory for me to be playing in Tokyo,” Date said. “Always Tokyo tennis fans support me a lot, and of course my friends were here and my sponsor was here, so it was exciting.
“Thank you so much to all tennis fans, and of course Japanese fans … tennis is always a wonderful sport, especially in the women. I have so much enjoyed the tour.”
— Kristina Mladenovic (@KikiMladenovic) September 13, 2017
Date’s first tournament came back in 1989, when she qualified in Tokyo and reached the quarterfinals. Her first appearance at a Grand Slam event came that same year at Roland Garros.
The Japanese star would later rise to world No.4 in 1995, a career-best season in which she won her biggest title at the Tier I Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo and reached the Miami Open final, as well as the semifinals at Roland Garros.
She reached two other Grand Slam semifinals – at Australian Open 1994 and Wimbledon in 1996.
Date played her last singles match in 1996 aged just 26 before, almost 12 years later, making an unlikely comeback in 2008.
Kimiko Date's oldest opponent: Anne Smith (born 1st July 1959)
Kimiko Date's youngest opponent: Sohyun Park (born 2nd July 2002)
— Tumaini Carayol (@tumcarayol) September 12, 2017
She enjoyed plenty of success in the second phase of her career, winning the WTA title in Seoul in 2009 and returning to the top 50 in 2010 – the oldest player to win a WTA title and rank that high since Billie Jean King in the 1980s.
She scored notable wins over top 10 stars Dinara Safina at Roland Garros in 2010 and Sam Stosur in Osaka later that year.
In 2013 Date has another surge, at age 42 reaching the third round at the Australian Open and Wimbledon – the best major results of her comeback – and ending that season ranked No.54.
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