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June 28, 2017

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Japan's Kimiko Date-Krumm defeats Birmingham champ

BIRMINGHAM, England -- Kimiko Date-Krumm, the 43-year-old Japanese who is the tour's oldest player, halted Daniela Hantuchova's title defense on Thursday to reach the quarterfinals of the Aegon Classic, a Wimbledon warmup event.

It was 18 years ago that Date-Krumm reached a Wimbledon semifinal. She proved an enduring grass-court threat by shortening the rallies, making her first serve count, and advancing at unexpected moments.

The most crucial phase of her startling 6-4, 6-0 success was the 10th game, in which Hantuchova made a push to recoup the early loss of a service game.

The seventh-seeded Slovak briefly re-found the ground-stroking rhythm which Date-Krumm took away, and earned one break back point for 5-5.

But once that was denied her — Date-Krumm moved sharply forward and put away a smash — Hantuchova's standard fell rather limply. Not even a dispute with the umpire about a line decision got her competitive adrenaline flowing.

Date-Krumm's triumph followed a two-hour encounter and a lengthy doubles the previous day, and it was suggested that she must surely feel tired.

"I do, of course," she said. "When I woke up my back was so tired, but I tried to move, and do some stretching. My body is different from when I reached the Wimbledon semifinal, and so is my game — but I enjoy it more."

She next plays not the second-seeded Samantha Stosur, but her Australian compatriot Casey Dellacqua, whose 2-6, 6-2, 6-2 win over the former U.S. Open champion was the third in three meetings between them.

The departure of these seeded stalwarts increased a feeling that Sloane Stephens, the second youngest player in the top 20, might take a significant step this week.

The 21-year-old Stephens has never reached a WTA Tour final but her 7-6 (4), 2-6, 6-1 win over Alison Riske, a fellow American who has reached two semifinals here, carried her within two wins of achieving that. The third-seeded Stephens next plays Zhang Shuai of China.

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