Lerpong Amsa-ngiam

The Nation

At 33, Tamarine Tanasugarn has clearly proved that she is not
only capable of playing professional tennis but also winning
tournaments following a historic singles win over Kimiko Date Krumm
in final of the US 220,000 HP Japan Women’s Open in Osaka
yesterday.

In a marathon tussle that lasted over three hours, Tamarine
dashed the hopes of home favourite and 40-year-old Date Krumm 7-5
6-7 (4-7) 6-1 to win the showdown which marked the oldest finalists
in the
WTA history, with a combined age of
73. The Thai, however, was not quite proud of the record.

“I just wish I could have made some other record. But what can I
do,” Tamarine said in a light-hearted manner. “I wish it will be
broken anytime soon.”

Tamarine, who came back from a two-month break due to an elbow
injury, lifted her fourth career trophy. Her first three titles
came on hardcourts, in Hyderabad in 2003 and on the grass courts of
‘s-Hertogenbosch in 2008 and 2009. She is now 4-7 in career
finals.

“I was quite surprised to win here. But one thing that I learn
from this is that getting old doesn’t mean you cannot do anything.
If you just take good care of yourself, keep training and stay fit,
you still can achieve something,” said Tamarine, who was cheered by
her half-sister Rose Tanasugarn and former national player Attapol
Rithiwattanapong.

The two veterans hit groundstrokes with pinpoint accuracy. The
tenacious Thai appeared to be in the driver’s seat when she broke
in the 12th game to take the first set, and went on to lead 3-1 in
the second set. But the former world No 4 Japanese launched another
audacious fightback , just like she did to beat world No 8 Samantha
Stosur and Shahar Peer in the earlier rounds, to extend the match
to the decisive set.

“After 3-1 in the second set, she went for her shots and
everything she did was good. I really ran out of ideas. I didn’t
know what to do when she played like that especially in the
tie-break. After the second set, I was worn down. But then I
thought that if I was tired, she must be too as she had some tough
matches against Stosur and Peer. So I just hung in there.”

Affected by two long previous matches, Date Krumm faded quickly
in the third set when Tamarine jumped to a 4-0 lead. The Thai
dropped the next game but that was the only one she conceded to the
Japanese. She kept a high 78-per-cent first serve though neither
player delivered an ace nor a double fault in the match.

“We both could hardly run in the third set. I took risks right
from start as I thought that I would die first if we had to hit
more than five shots. Luckily, I didn’t miss my shots and I even
moved to pressure her at the net. She was really tired at the end,”
said Tamarine, who returns to Thailand today and will play a US
100,000 event in Taiwan in the next two weeks, which will be her
warm-up event for Asian Games.

“This is a great feeling and hopefully I can continue to play
like this and get a good start to 2011.”

Tamarine took the winner’s cheque of US 37,000 which put her
total career prize money to over US 3 million for the first time.
She is expected to move from 94 last week to inside the top 65 when
the rankings are announced this week.

Date Krumm was bidding to become the oldest player to win a WTA
singles title. Billie Jean King won in Birmingham in 1983 when she
was 39 years, 7 months, 23 days. Date Krumm is already the second
oldest player to win a title after her victory in Seoul last year
at 38 years and 11 months.

“I just tried my best and fought as hard as I could,” Date Krumm
said. “Nobody wants to lose, so I tried everything. Now I’ll play
some ITF events followed by the Asian Games, so I’ll be continuing
to play tennis the rest of the year.”

Meanwhile, in Kashiwa, Danai Udomchoke won his first title since
his comeback from shoulder injury, beating Taiwan’s Chen Ti 6-4 6-2
in the final of the US 15,000 TTC Kashiwa Open yesterday.