"The not too distant day" finally arrived.
Kimiko Date has decided to put an end to her second challenge.
I was determined to continue my challenge until the day I could no longer ignore my inner voice.
9 and a half years have passed since the start of my second challenge in April of 2008. In the beginning of the 10th season in 2017, I had a knee cartridge transplant and returned to the tour in May.
As I was relieved to complete The Kangaroo Cup in Gifu, the first tournament after returning to the tour and feeling optimistic about playing, my old shoulder injury began to act up. Although there's no pain in my knee, I'm not 100% confident to move freely and unable to play as I wish I could in tournaments. I have always loved playing tennis and faced every competition seriously but now, I find myself adjusting the amount and the quality of training while worrying about my physical condition more so than the competition itself.
I'm generally able to control my activities and schedule while in Japan. I can rest from training if my knee or shoulder condition is bad or alter my training if needed. However, while on a tour, my schedule is not as flexible since there are others on the tour with me. Of course, there are times when my physical condition is not up to par and I must cancel training due to fatigue or injury, but this rarely used to happen. Yet, this has been occurring more frequently these days. It is very difficult to accept and I feel frustrated that I'm inconveniencing others on tour with me. I realized this in July, while I was on tour in America for 3 weeks.
I had survived the painful knee surgery, overcame harsh rehabilitation and hard training to get in shape to play in a tournament which I feel is a great accomplishment. However, when I compare my level of play to before my injuries, I realize that there's a gap and it's not easy to fill.
By trying to fill the gap, I spend days fluctuating between hope and despair. I know that I should be thinking only about winning while on tour, but I can't help thinking about my physical condition. I know that I need to push my physical potential to the maximum so that I can compete with young players in their twenties, but I find myself unable to do so even if I wanted to.
As a professional tennis player, I must commit myself to play on the tour, which means traveling around the world throughout the year and qualify to play in the WTA tournaments and ultimately in the Grand Slams. But now, even if I decrease the number of tournaments, I have to admit that it will still be very difficult to continue playing on the tour.
Maybe you don't have to deal with the pain anymore...
Maybe you don't need to endure the pain...
These thoughts have been circling my mind.
It wasn't easy to shake off the desire to run around the court freely and play quick games like before. I have always believed that I can do it.
It'll be a lie if I said that I no longer believe that, but if there is a good time to put an end to my tennis career, I thought the time is now.
For now, I want to spend the remaining days doing what needs to be done as a professional tennis player. Even though I had suffered injury, I would like to take the opportunity to reflect through my blog after the tournament in Ariake on the great times I had on the tour, the fact I was ranked in the top 50?s, appreciation for my supporting fans, and all the fruitful events during the 9 and a half years.
I am now concentrating all my energy in rehabilitation, training, and practice towards The Japan Women?s Open while taking daily consideration of my knee and shoulder condition. This tournament in Ariake will be my last tournament of my second challenge.
Now that I have made the difficult decision to retire, I would like all of you who have supported me over the years to come and see my final play and it would make me very happy if you could keep that image in your memory.
Although the Coliseum will not be used, the courts of Ariake Tennis Park which will be hosting The Japan Women's Open starting on September 11th, are filled with lots of memories for me. I don't know what kind of play I can display, but I wanted you to know my decision in advance so that I can share with you the moment of putting an end to my second challenge.