Tokyo - Japan's
Kimiko Date, the grand dame of women's tennis, announced on Monday that
she will retire from the game a few days short of her 47th birthday.
The former world number four said on her official blog that she will
add the "full stop" to her career by retiring - for a second time -
after the Japan Women's Open tournament, which begins in Tokyo on
"I have always been obsessed with competing," said Date, who took a
12-year hiatus from professional tennis after quitting at the peak of
her powers in 1996.
"But increasingly I've found myself adjusting the length and intensity of training to look after my physical condition.
"It has not been an easy decision to sever the feeling that I want to
get back on court and run around like I used to," added the eight-time
WTA Tour singles champion and former Wimbledon semi-finalist.
"But it is time to put the punctuation point on my tennis career."
Date, a wiry 5-foot-4 (1.63 metres), underwent two knee surgeries
since appearing at the 2016 Australian Open, but defied the odds to
return to action in May this year.
The Kyoto native admitted she was still nursing a sore knee and shoulder.
"All my energy is focused on the Japan Open," she said. "I hope many
of those who have supported me down the years can come out to watch and
have that image to remember me by."
Date, whose game is a throwback to a time when tennis was more about
lobs, dinks and clever use of spin than power-hitting, broke several
records in the sport.
Most notably in 2009, Date became the second-oldest player in the
modern era to win a WTA singles title after Billie Jean King when she
captured the Korea Open.
Despite playing on until the ripe old age of 46, Date fell some way
short of her idol Martina Navratilova, who retired a month short of her
50th birthday in 2006.