Reuters - Tue, 25 May 19:41:00 2010
Japan's Kimiko Date Krumm made a mockery of a 15-year age gap by stunning former world number one and last year's runner-up Dinara Safina 3-6 6-4 7-5 in the French Open first round.
Date Krumm, 39, made her Roland Garros debut in 1989, when Safina was just three, and with the victory became the second oldest player behind Britain's Virginia Wade to win a main draw women's singles match in Paris since the game went professional.
The Japanese player repeatedly called on the trainer to treat a calf problem during the match and lost the first set in 36 minutes, but Safina lost focus and Date Krumm prevailed after two hours and 34 minutes.
The Kyoto-born Date Krumm, who had called it quits in 1996 before returning to the tour two years ago, looked set for a quick drubbing at the hands of last year's finalist when she went 5-0 down in the opening set.
Date Krumm, making her first Roland Garros appearance since 1996, did not panic, however. She managed three games in a row before letting the first set slip.
She went 4-2 down in the second set before claiming four games in a row as Safina gradually lost her composure, smashing her racket onto the ground but sparing the courtside geranium displays.
Safina broke again in the third set to open a 4-1 lead as Date Krumm, her face a mask of pain, stretched at the change of ends and had the tape on her right calf tightened by the trainer.
With her Russian opponent making a string of unforced errors, Date Krumm, who has reached the last four in all Grand Slams but the US Open, simply hung on, waiting for Safina to crack.
The unthinkable eventually happened as Safina fired a forehand long on her first match point allowing Date Krumm to set up a second round clash with Australian Jarmila Groth, who beat Chan Yung-Jan of Thailand 6-2 6-3.
Former champion Justine Henin made a rusty start on her return to Roland Garros before finally easing through her first-round match 6-4 6-3 against Bulgaria's Tsvetana Pironkova.
Henin, who last graced Court Philippe Chatrier three years ago when she won her fourth women's singles crown, struggled to match Pironkova's power in the early stages and her mesmeric backhand was far from firing on all cylinders.
A break in game eight of the opener gave her the impetus to take the first set in 47 minutes and though Pironkova kept the Henin serve under pressure throughout the second set the 22nd seed sealed victory after an hour and 29 minutes when the Bulgarian sprayed a backhand return wide.
Maria Sharapova eased into the second round with a 6-3 6-2 win over fellow Russian Ksenia Pervak.
Barely bothered by a few drops of rain on Court Suzanne Lenglen, the former world number one, seeded 12th in Paris, was broken early in the opening set before turning on the power.
Sharapova, who won the Strasbourg warm-up tournament last Saturday, ended the contest after one hour and 20 minutes on her third match point.
She will face Belgian Kirsten Flipkens for a place in the third round.
Sixteenth seed Yanina Wickmayer and Kirsten Flipkens, the only two other Belgian women in the draw in the absence of the injured Kim Clijsters, both reached the second round in emphatic style with straight sets win. Wickmayer demolished Czech player Sandra Zahlavova 6-1 6-1 while Flipkens recorded a 6-1 6-4 win over Ayumi Morita of Japan.
Israel's 18th seeded Shahar Peer, enjoying a good run of form after reaching the semi-finals in Stuttgart before losing to eventual champion Henin, dispatched Spaniard Nuria Llagostera Vives 6-1 6-4 to set up a clash with American Bethanie Mattek-Sands, a 6-2 6-2 winner over compatriot Vania King.
The 27-year-old will next face Olga Govortsova after the Belarusian dispatched Carla Suarez Navarro, a former quarter-finalist at Roland Garros, 7-6(9) 6-1.
Former finalist Vera Zvonareva, seeded 21st, also progressed with ease as she beat Italian Alberta Brianti 6-3 6-1 and she will face Anastasia Rodionova in the second round after the Australian beat Russia's Ekaterina Makarova 6-3 6-2.
Russian 29th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova overcame talented Frenchwoman Alize Cornet 6-4 6-2 to set up a second round clash with American Jill Craybas, who ended Britain's interest in the women's draw with a 6-0 4-6 6-4 win over Katie O'Brien.
Every day 9.45am LIVE on British Eurosport (Sky 410 / Virgin 521), Eurosport HD (Sky 412 / Virgin 522) & on the Eurosport Player.