By Randy Walker
It was 15 years ago today that Kimiko Date was playing in the Key Biscayne, final, battling the venerable legend Steffi Graf. Date was not the winner on this day back in 1995, losing 6-1, 6-4 in the final of the then Lipton Championships, but here, exactly 15 years later, she is still out on the courts at the Tennis Center at Crandon Park, battling away as a 39-year old. Thursday she plays her second-round match at the Sony Ericsson Open against Nadia Petrova of Russia.
Date, who after marriage to German race car driver Michael Krumm now plays under the name of Kimiko Date-Krumm, and is into her third-year of a comeback that started in 2008 after a 12-year retirement. Back in 1995, Date staged one of the greatest comebacks in the history of the Key Biscayne event, coming back from a 1-6, 1-5 deficit to defeat Gabriela Sabatini 1-6, 7-6 (2), 7-6 (4) in a 3 hour, 5 minute semifinal that featured 18 double faults from Sabatini.
Another interesting anniversary involving a player on the card today in Key Biscayne involves Agnieska Radwanska. It was three years ago today that the Pole, then a 17-year-old, upset Martina Hingis 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 in the Sony Ericsson Open second round. Hingis, however, settled for a nice consolation milestone – becoming the fourth player in the history of women’s tennis to eclipse the $20 million mark in career prize money, joining Steffi Graf, Lindsay Davenport and Martina Navratilova. Said Hingis, “It’s not great doing it this way.”
Other events from this date, as documented in my book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.TennisHistoryBook.com) are as follows;
2001 – Eighteen-year-old Andy Roddick, ranked No. 119 in the world, starts the changing of the guard in American tennis as he upsets Pete Sampras 7-6 (2), 6-3 in the third round of the Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne, Fla. Roddick’s victory is his first over a player ranked in the top 10. It was the first time Sampras loses to a player outside the Top 100 since losing to No. 205 Karim Alami in the first round of Doha, Qatar in January 1994.
2002 – Pete Sampras is defeated by Fernando Gonzalez 7-6 (1), 6-1 in the third round of the Ericsson Open in what eventually becomes his last match at the event that is regarded as the fifth-biggest tournament in the world.
1990 – Nineteen-year-old Andre Agassi defeats Stefan Edberg 6-1, 6-4, 0-6, 6-2 to win the Lipton Championships in Key Biscayne, Fla., for the first time in his career. Agassi goes on to win the tournament a record six times, also winning in 1995, 1996, 2001, 2002 and 2003.
2006 – Defending champion Kim Clijsters loses her opening match at the NASDAQ-100 Open in Key Biscayne, Fla., to No. 54-ranked Jill Craybas of the United States 7-5, 3-6, 7-5. Clijsters double-faults 11 times and commits 78 unforced errors. “It was sort of in my hands,” says Clijsters, seeded No. 2. “I was the one making the mistakes. I was just trying to do a little too much.”
2007 – World No. 1 Justine Henin is two points from defeat and rallies from a 1-5 final-set deficit to defeat Virginie Razzano 6-2, 2-6, 7-6(5) in the second round of the Sony Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne, Fla. Says Henin, “I came back from nowhere almost. It’s this kind of situation that I play my best tennis. I proved it many times in the past. I probably love to be under pressure — but it’s good to win in two sets, too.”