Date to end astonishing tennis career as 47th birthday looms

Updated: 

A month shy of her 47th birthday, Kimiko Date has announced she is set to bring an end to her extraordinarily lengthy career as a professional tennis player.

An eight-time winner on the WTA Tour, Date first played on the ITF Circuit in 1988 and made her maiden grand slam appearances the following year.

However, next month's Japan Women's Open will be the final tournament for the veteran Japanese, who confirmed her impending retirement in a blog post on Monday.

Date reached grand slam semi-finals in three successive years from 1994 and made it to fourth in the world rankings before initially retiring at the end of the 1996 season.

She duly returned to the women's professional tour at the age of 37 and became the second-oldest player in the Open era to win a WTA event with victory in the 2009 Korea Open in Seoul.

"I was determined to continue my challenge until the day I could no longer ignore my inner voice," wrote Date in a post on LINEBLOG.

"Nine 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 per cent 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.

"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.

"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."