Kimiko Date Krumm of Japan, who may have set a new record for length of time away from professional tennis when she began playing again after 12 years and who is currently competing in the U.S. Open qualifying tournament, answered Bonnie D. Ford's questions via e-mail.
Bonnie D. Ford: You stayed physically fit during your retirement, but how much work did you have to do to be in shape for top-level tennis?
Kimiko Date Krumm: Before returning to the court, I had personal training sessions three-four times a week. However, since I cannot just think about training and building up my physique considering my current age, I spent a considerable amount of time for recovery. As I am currently in the midst of a season, it is quite difficult to find time for serious training, but I try to find time as much as I can to keep it up.
Ford: Was it also difficult to get yourself mentally ready? I would like your opinion on the psychological challenges of competing again after such a long time.
Krumm: The first year that I returned back on court, my goal was to compete in the All Japan Tennis Championships. Thus, I wasn't thinking about going back on WTA Tour, so obviously I hadn't had much preparation mentally back then. I started out with the ITF tournaments in Japan to get back my sense of competition, and as I played match after match, I was able to compete on a reasonable level in Japan, and was able to win both singles and doubles.
I did spend a lot of time thinking before I made my decision for this challenge. I contemplated things like whether I would be able to accept myself for not being on the level that I was in my teens, twenties, and when I was 25; whether I would be able to accept losing, moreover be able to accept a losing streak. I did spend a lot of time contemplating about this. Yet, after I made my decision to be back on court again and challenge myself, I haven't really thought about it.
Ford: Were you nervous about how well you would do when you came back?
Krumm: My goal was to first compete in the All Japan Tennis Championships. In the preparation process, I competed in ITF tournaments in Japan, and as I did so and remembering how it was like in the past, my feelings for WTA tour and Grand Slams had grown. But back then, I never even dreamt of challenging myself in competing at the Grand Slams qualifying [or] being on a world tour. So I feel what I have achieved until now has been beyond my imagination.
Ford: In interviews this year, you have said you sometimes felt lonely and pressured as a younger player, and can enjoy playing more now. Would you change anything about the way you handled your career when you were younger?
Krumm: There has been a lot of changes in many aspects since my first eight years of my career ['89 to '96]. There were less direct flights to major cities in the world during [the] late '80s and early '90s, which obviously made travel time much longer, and the world felt much more far compared to now. Now, there are more direct flights and the world seems much closer.
Technological advancement, such as computers and Internet in which I can get almost any information on a real-time basis and be connected to home and to my loved ones, is also one of the aspects that help me not feel lonely on the tour. Also, adding on years to my age has also changed me and matured me, as I see things differently now and am able to accept things more, thus don't feel lonely or feel too far away from home.
When I look back, if I were that age at this time frame, I may have had different perspectives. Yet, I feel my age has a lot to do with the way I am now. How I was back in the days was who I was at that time, so I don't think I could handle things the way I do now even if I were younger at this time.
Bonnie D. Ford covers tennis and Olympic sports for ESPN.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.