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Veteran Kimiko stuns Safina at French Open

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Kimiko Date-Krumm produced the biggest upset of the tournament so far with a first-round victory over Dinara Safina

Kimiko Date-Krumm produced the biggest upset of the tournament so far with a first-round victory over Dinara Safina

Kimiko Date-Krumm produced the biggest upset of the tournament so far with a first-round victory over Dinara Safina

Day three of the French Open was meant to be about Justine Henin's long-awaited return to Roland Garros after ending her 18-month retirement.

But the four-time champion ended up being upstaged by a 39-year-old from Japan who had hung up her racquet for 12 years ago before resuming her career.

Kimiko Date-Krumm produced undoubtedly the biggest upset of the tournament so far with an extraordinary first-round victory over Dinara Safina, the former world number one who had been runner-up in the tournament for the last two years.

Yesterday's win was Date-Krumm's first in the main draw of a grand slam since 1996, her success all the more remarkable as she struggled with a calf injury throughout.

The 3-6 6-4 7-5 win was all too much for a woman who will turn 40 before the year is out, Date-Krumm bursting into tears on Suzanne Lenglen Court following the two hour 34 minute saga.

Date-Krumm, who married German racing driver Michael Krumm during her long exile from the game, was a multiple grand slam semi-finalist before retiring.

She revealed afterwards her husband was the driving force behind her 2008 comeback, which yesterday saw her become the second oldest woman after Virginia Wade to win a match at Roland Garros.

“He loves the sport, he loves tennis,” said a delighted Date-Krumm. “Always he asked me, ‘Why don't you play tennis one more time? This is just for fun, not serious'. Then he pushed me. In 2007, I had exhibition matches in Japan with Steffi Graf and Martina Navratilova.

“After that, we discussed continuing to play or not, and then he pushed me very hard. I just decided to come back on the tour.”

Safina appeared to have yesterday's match in the bag when she led by a set and a break, and two breaks in the decider, but she simply crumbled, admitting she “got tight” in serving an astonishing 17 double faults.

Henin, who was barely a teenager when Date-Krumm retired, also enjoyed an emotional victory after coming through a tricky tie against Tsvetana Pironkova.

Playing at Roland Garros for the first time since completing a hat-trick of singles title wins in 2007, the Belgian showed only glimpses of her scintillating best on Philippe Chatrier Court and struggled on serve throughout.

But she did enough to seal a 6-4 6-3 victory in one hour 29 minutes and set up a second-round meeting with Klara Zakopalova.

Maria Sharapova narrowly beat the evening rain to see off fellow Russian Ksenia Pervak 6-3 6-2, while French hope Marion Bartoli cruised past Maria Elena Camerin 6-2 6-3.

Rafael Nadal defeated plucky French teenager Gianni Mina 6-2 6-2 6-2, though the four-time champion did not have it all his own way against last year's junior runner-up.

But wild card Mina's boundless energy and enthusiasm was not enough to prevent him falling to defeat and handing Nadal a second-round match against Horacio Zeballos or Martin Fischer.

Earlier in the day, Andy Roddick avoided becoming the biggest men's casualty so far after coming from two sets to one down to beat Jarkko Nieminen.

The American — who has missed the entire season on clay for personal reasons — avoided a fifth first-round exit in nine appearances thanks to a 6-2 4-6 4-6 7-6 (7/4) 6-3 win on Philippe Chatrier Court.

Belfast Telegraph