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Kimiko Date Krumm and the Irritation Inducers

How does she do it?

One of the craziest comeback stories in women's tennis keeps rolling along as Kimiko Date Krumm knocked off Maria Sharapova at the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo, mere hours before she hits the big 4-0.

Now looking at it on paper, you'd think Sharapova would be able to blast Date Krumm off the court, but obviously that's not the case because what Date Krumm lacks in power she makes up for with flat, penetrating groundies that can give a lot of players fits in today's topspin-driven game.

That got me to thinking about some other players over the past couple of decades that defied the odds and notched up big scalps on their way to becoming one, based on games that gave their peers fits.

For the women:

* Date Krumm: Most 40-year-olds don't come back after years and years out of the game to become a solid top-75 player, but Date Krumm has. You'd be hard-pressed to find a player out there, male or female, with strokes like hers.

* Francesca Schiavone and Patty Schnyder: I put these two together because when was the last time you were able to say, "Wow, she cracked that forehand" or "Look at all those aces she racked up." They probably know the nuances of the court more than 90 percent of their peers.

* Aranxta Sanchez-Vicario: Hustle can go a long way, as seen by what she managed to accomplish in her career. She had to come up with tricks to diffuse the power players of her day. Who has hit a better moonball?

As for some of the men:

* Michael Chang: Speed kills, and his did, for sure. His groundies were textbook but he had to hit a LOT of them on the run. He rode that grind-it-out style to the Hall of Fame.

* Lleyton Hewitt: Hewitt's accomplishments are some of the most fascinating to me ever: How did he dominate the game for two years? I still can't figure it out, so I'll move on!

* Brad Gilbert: Speed and court sense carried him to a place no one would've ever predicted for him. No one would ever accuse him of hitting the ball too hard, but he did OK with 20 titles and a top-four ranking, achieved against some of the greatest players of all time.

* Gael Monfils: He drives me crazy watching him play, so I can imagine how the guys on tour must feel!

There are so many others throughout the histories of the ATP and WTA, but I just wanted to throw these players out there, and give props to Kimiko Date Krumm, who's doing it for irritation-inducers everywhere!

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