LONDON (Reuters) - Kimiko Date-Krumm originally retired two years before Serena Williams, her third round opponent at Wimbledon, set foot on the All England Club’s lush lawns for the first time.
Williams, bidding for a sixth Wimbledon title, is considered a veteran of the sport herself at 31, but she is no match in age for the 42-year-old Japanese, who is the oldest female player to reach this stage of the tournament in the professional era.
The pair have surprisingly never met during their lengthy careers, an anomaly that will end when the American defending champion faces Date-Krumm on Court One on Saturday.
The popular Japanese player is enjoying an Indian Summer in her career having returned to the circuit in 2008, following a 12-year hiatus.
She first walked away from tennis in 1996, months after losing a close Wimbledon semi-final to the great Steffi Graf.
Date-Krumm, ranked 84, is a lengthy outsider to cause an upset against the dominant force in the women’s game who is currently on a 33-match winning streak.
The world number one, however, is not expecting to have everything her own way.
“She returns unbelievable shots,” said Williams. “It doesn’t matter how hard you hit it, she sees the ball and gets it back.”
Novak Djokovic headlines the action in the men’s draw on Centre Court Saturday, with the top seed facing France’s number 28 seed Jeremy Chardy in a third round match.
Reporting by Toby Davis; editing by Ken Ferris