Tuesday, November 11, 2014

INTERVIEW: Date-Krumm impressed but also worried for Wozniacki post-marathon

Date-Krumm after winning the Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge in Dubai in 2012

Kimiko Date-Krumm was impressed by Caroline Wozniacki’s phenomenal timing at the New York Marathon nine days ago but says she is worried the Dane could suffer in the aftermath of completing such a strenuous race.

Date-Krumm, who at 44 is still competing on the WTA tour and is ranked No115 in the world, had competed in the London Marathon in 2004 during her 12-year break from tennis and had clocked a remarkable three hours and 30 minutes.

Wozniacki bested the Japanese’s time, crossing the finish line in 3:26:33 in New York, and while Date-Krumm is thrilled for the ex-world No1, she shared some troubling details about her health following her own marathon experience.

She beat me (my time),” a laughing Date-Krumm told me on the sidelines of the Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge in Dubai, where she made the second round on Monday.

I spoke with her I think at the US Open and she asked me ‘what was your time?’ and I explained a little bit. She was so excited to talk about the marathon.

It was an impressive time - first time is not easy.

I hope she didn’t get injured because it’s big big damage after that. For me after the marathon my hormone balance was broken, my period stopped for eight months, so I hope that she is not like that.”

Another player that has definitely impressed Date-Krumm is her compatriot Kei Nishikori, who has risen to No5 in the world and has beaten Andy Murray on Sunday on his ATP World Tour Finals debut.

Nishikori made history when he became the first Asian male to reach a grand slam singles final at the US Open last September and Date-Krumm, who made three major semi-finals in the 1990s, says it’s remarkable how someone of his size (178cm, 74kg) can do so well in today’s game.

Asked about how Japan reacted to Nishikori’s US Open run, she said: “It was crazy, a little bit too much but I can imagine because I did it before. But he has a very strong mentality so I think it’s okay. It’s good for Japanese tennis.

And now he’s No5 in the world. In the men’s game. He’s not 180cm or 190cm, he’s not big, doesn’t have big muscles, but he has so much talent and it’s amazing.

Date-Krumm however is not too thrilled with the state of the women’s game in Japan, which she feels is on the decline.

While Kurumi Nara has leapt up the rankings to No43 in the world, thanks to her title victory in Rio early in the season followed by a final showing in Washington DC, she is currently the only Japanese in the top-100 with Date-Krumm and Misaki Doi next in line at 115 and 122.

On why she thinks this decline is happening, Date-Krumm explained: “Now women’s tennis is more powerful, stronger, everybody is going up physically. In Japan we only have synthetic grass courts and we don’t have many hard courts and our players only play in Japan, small ITF tournaments $25K, sometimes $50K and I think it’s not enough.

Because 80 per cent of the players in these tournaments are Japanese and some Asian players. So they don’t know how to play against the powerful European or American people. So they need to go more outside and then to get used to playing strong women.”

In terms of Asian tennis, Date-Krumm said that Li Na’s retirement is a big blow but that she understands how the Chinese two-time grand slam champion had had enough of her knee problems.

For Asian players it’s very very disappointing. She won grand slams and she’s a good role model for Asian people. For Asian people it’s like a dream come true. Her winning a grand slam allowed Asian players to believe they could do it too. Maybe not me, but the younger players for sure,” she joked.

I respect her a lot and I hope that she has a good next life. Hopefully she has kids in the future and that one day maybe we can see each other outside the tennis court to talk.

She was always a nice person, we talked a lot. But always after retirement people open their hearts more, for example Steffi Graf, Monica Seles, Arantxa Sanchez, Gabriela Sabatini… everybody on the tour they close their hearts but when they stop tennis everybody opens their heart more so it’s more relaxed and they’re talking a lot.”

Date-Krumm will face Spain’s Lourdes Dominguez Lino in the second round of the Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge in Dubai.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Dubai Junior ITF: Third time's a charm for Allaf against Hogbani

Photo credit: Andre Almeida
When Kareem Allaf (pictured) let out a massive roar on court at Al Wasl Club on Saturday after finishing off his opponent Ammar Alhogbani to capture the junior ITF title in Dubai, it was clear this wasn’t just any victory for the young Syrian.

The Abu Dhabi-based Allaf, 16, was facing Alhogbani for a third final in three weeks. He lost the first two, in Bahrain and in Kuwait, and was in no mood to suffer a third defeat at the hands of the 16-year-old Saudi Arabian.

Searching for his first-ever ITF junior title and playing his sixth career final, Allaf finally broke his trophy hoodoo to beat Alhogbani 6-4, 6-4 in one hour and 35 minutes.

I’m glad I lost the first two finals against him because I was even more determined to win the next tournament here in Dubai,” said Allaf after he ended Alhogbani’s 14-match winning streak.

I came out more aggressive, I tried to hold my serve more. In Kuwait I lost my serve too much. I broke him a couple of times, I got really pumped and I tried to stop him in the second set and it came out well elhamdolillah.”

Both players were contesting their 25th match (singles and doubles) in three weeks. Allaf broke in the fifth game of the match and opened up a 4-2 lead and it was all he needed to grab the opening set.

The pair exchanged breaks early in the second before Allaf broke through in a marathon fifth game which saw a controversial call from a line judge that sent Alhogbani fuming. The Saudi teenager, who lives and trains in Virginia in the US, thought he had received a game point after hitting what he assumed was a winner, but later found out that the line judge and umpire had called it out and that he was actually facing a break point.

I didn’t even know he called it out, I thought the game was over. I didn’t even know he said ‘advantage Kareem’. I didn’t really like it that much. It could have been 3-2 me and I ended up winning the next two games, it could have been a different match,” said Alhogbani.

He did break back and went on to lead 4-3 but Allaf ran away with the next three games to complete his revenge and capture his first ITF junior trophy.

We were both tired. I came out very nervous today,” admitted Alhogbani, who had beaten Allaf a total of four times in both singles and doubles in the past three weeks.

He played a very different match. He played better than I expected him to play. It was well done for him. He deserved it.”

Still, the US-based Saudi was happy with his stint in the Gulf, where he managed to win two titles on his ITF debut.

Meanwhile, Allaf paid tribute to his new coach Walid Jallali, who only teamed up with him a mere four weeks ago.

He’s helped me a lot through these three weeks mentally, he’s given me a lot of tips and I’m really happy he’s been helping me so much,” said Allaf of Jallali, who previously worked with Tunisian ATP world No71, Malek Jaziri.

The girls’ singles final of the Dubai ITF Junior Championships by Zata was won by third-seeded Cypriot Eliza Omirou, who defeated Greek second seed Eleni Christofi 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 in a lengthy and gruelling affair.