Tennis: Japan's 'iron lady' Date to quit game at 46

Tokyo (AFP) –


Japan's Kimiko Date, the grand dame of women's tennis, has announced 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 September 11.

"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 5ft 4in (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, 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.