MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Kimiko Date-Krumm is used to questions about retirement but still has no answer. For now, she's content to continue the "miracle" of playing professional tennis at age 43.
She is also used to the distinction of being the oldest women's singles player at Grand Slams. On Monday, the veteran was matched against the second-youngest player in the draw, 16-year-old Belinda Bencic, a qualifier playing in her first major after winning two junior Grand Slam titles last year.
Bencic eliminated Date-Krumm in the first round, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, after a nearly two-hour match under a hot sun that left the veteran exhausted.
"I felt so tired. I had no power. I tried not to do long rallies because she never made a mistake," Date-Krumm said after the match in a good-natured session with reporters who kept asking how much longer she can play on.
"Already, it's a miracle," she joked, adding, "I'm still enjoying playing. I'm still enjoying playing Grand Slams, also. So, keep fighting."
"I don't know how many years, how many months."
When she thinks about life after tennis, she imagines relaxing more and not traveling so much and spending more time with her husband, German race car driver Michael Krumm.
Maybe one day she'll wake up and just decide it's time.
"Maybe tomorrow," she laughed. "Maybe tonight. Or maybe five years later. I don't know."
This was Date-Krumm's 47th time playing a Grand Slam tournament — and she was the oldest woman in the draw by a decade. The only other players who came close were were 33-year-olds Venus Williams, who also lost in the first-round, and Francesca Schiavone, who plays Tuesday.
The 80th-ranked Date-Krumm has won eight career titles and reached the Australian Open semifinals in 1994. She was once Asia's highest-ranked player, having peaked at No. 4 in 1995 — two years before Bencic was born. The Asian record is now No. 3 and is held by Li Na, who faces Bencic in the next round.
Date-Krumm took a 12-year break from tennis and returned in 2008.