creo en la diosa ♥ Sveta ♥
Join Date: May 2001
BIG IN JAPAN
One of Japan's leading sportswomen, Kimiko Date achieved a world ranking of sixth place in the WTA rankings before bowing out at the surprisingly young age of twenty-six.
Born in Kyoto in September 1970, Date was encouraged to take up tennis from the age of six, as her parents were keen practitioners of the sport themselves. Although her mother and father supported and nurtured her budding talent, it's interesting to note that they held the traditional attitude toward people born left-handed (as the young Date was) and painstakingly coached her to play right-handed.
Her parents sent her to Sonoda High School, famous for producing tennis players, and she was soon discovered by leading scout Akira Misikuni. In 1986 she won the All Japan Junior Championship, and was in the top four of the All Japan Championship the next year. In the same championship in 1988, she beat top pro Etsuko Inoue, and after graduation from high school in 1989 turned professional.
She appeared in the world rankings at the position of number 321 and soon began attracting attention through her impressive performances. In 1991 her ranking leapt from 112 to 32 after defeating world-number-three Gabriela Sabatini at the Los Angeles WTA semifinals. There then began a series of triumphs over the world's greatest tennis players, putting Date in the spotlight as few Japanese sports people had ever been before. She won her first major title after upsetting both Amy Frazier and Sabine Appelmans at the 1992 Japan Open. In 1994, she won her first overseas championship after defeating Mary Joe Fernandez at the 1994 New South Wales Open in Australia.
Shortly after, she was put firmly on the world stage at the 1994 Australian Open when she became the first Japanese player in 21 years to reach a grand slam final. 1996 was undoubtedly the triumph of her career, when she beat Steffi Graf at the Fed cup in Tokyo, won the Japan Open (both the singles and doubles) and won the Toshiba Tennis Classic in San Diego. Not only that, but she reached the semi-finals in an obscure little place called Wimbledon as well. Without warning, she shocked her adoring fans (who were now legion) by announcing her retirement from professional tennis at the end of the year. She played her last match as a WTA pro on November 22 against Monica Seles. Unfortunately, she lost.
After retirement, she began writing a series of books, including her autobiography, and a number of "how to play tennis" books. "Last Game" explained her decision to quit at the height of her powers, and "Pro Diary" gave the inside story of the tournaments she attended. She now lives in Tokyo and divides her time between answering sports-related questions on her homepage and running the Come On! Kid's Tennis organization, teaching tennis to children in kindergartens and primary schools. Her name has been romantically linked to actor Kichii Nakai, but she remains single. It's a mark of her enduring appeal that four years after retirement, whenever Japanese tennis players are mentioned, Kimiko Date is still the first name to come to mind.