Experience beats youth. Forty-two-year-old Date-Krumm tames teen star Putintseva for the Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge crown. ‘Al Shindagah’ was there to witness the victory
All of 42 years on one side of the court and a gutsy teenager on the other with both players bent on having their name inscribed on the 15th Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge played at the Habtoor Grand Resort and Spa on December 1.
However, there could only be one winner. And it was the experienced Kimiko Date-Krumm of Japan who walked away smiling with a hard-fought 6-1, 3-6, 6-4 win over Kazakh teen Yulia Putintseva.
Perhaps, no one was more amused than the youngster from Astana as she shook her head in disbelief after succumbing to a player who is more than twice her age. Or for that matter, faced with the fact that Date-Krumm was already the world number four on the WTA Tour the year Putintseva was born in Moscow in 1995.
“It’s like playing against my grand-mother because my mum is much younger than her (Date-Krumm),” Putintseva blurted after the final.
“I just can’t come to terms that she played so well. I have so much to learn from this defeat,” the 17-year-old added.
Khalaf Al Habtoor, Chairman of the Al Habtoor Group presented the winner’s trophy to the Japanese woman accompanied by Mohammed Al Habtoor, Vice Chairman and CEO, Al Habtoor Group, former world number one Jelena Jankovic, new tournament director Ivica Ancic and ITF Supervisor Hani El Khafief, who has been with this tournament since its launch in 1998.
But for Date-Krumm it was a perfect ending to an injury-ravaged season. It was also a culmination of an evasive title following two lost finals in as many weeks before her debut appearance in Dubai. Just one week earlier the Japanese star had fallen to Switzerland’s Stefanie Voegele in her home tournament in Tokyo and a week before that she had lost to Ukrainian Elina Svitolina in the Pune Challenger in India.
“So to come to a third final in three weeks and cap the season with a title feels so nice,” Date-Krumm admitted.
“At last I can give myself a break and enjoy this moment,” she added.
However, in her demanding terms a break meant just two days off from the tennis courts as Date-Krumm promised to visit the souq areas of Dubai and take in the sights to coincide with the 41st National Day celebrations of the UAE.
“I will be back training and preparing myself for the 2013 season the minute I land,” she promised.
While winning the 15th edition of this popular tournament, Date-Krumm became the third Asian player in a row to win this $75,000 ITF Women’s Circuit Tournament that officially brings down the curtains on the 2012 tennis season. Others who have won here in the past two years include Noppowan Lertcheewakarn of Thailand and India’s Sania Mirza while Angelique Widjaja of Indonesia had won the title way back in 2002.
This year’s tournament was unique in more ways than one. Three of the top-100 players participated and the final was watched by two former world number ones – Jelena Jankovic and Martina Hingis, who is Yulia Putintseva’s coach.
And perhaps, patron Khalaf Al Habtoor summed it up best on behalf of all, “There is a very unique feel about our tournament. The players have the beach, the swimming pools and lots of entertainment, and at the same time they get to play some serious tennis and start preparing for the new season. We feel so proud to be part of finding the stars of the future.”