Sunday, August 25, 2013

Cancer survivor to make Grand Slam comeback

Cancer survivor Alisa Kleybanova is scheduled to play her
first Grand Slam match in almost three years on Monday in
the U.S. Open. Photo by Paul Bauman
   When the U.S. Open begins Monday, the focus will be on Venus Williams and Rafael Nadal during the day session and Serena Williams and Roger Federer at night.
   All will play on national television in cavernous Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.
   But a poignant scene will quietly take place during the afternoon on intimate Court 7 as cancer survivor Alisa Kleybanova plays her first Grand Slam match in almost three years. Kleybanova, a 24-year-old Russian, will meet Monica Puig, 19, of Puerto Rico.
   During the first week of July, Puig played in the round of 16 at Wimbledon while Kleybanova reached the quarterfinals of the $50,000 FSP Gold River Women's Challenger in the Sacramento area as a qualifier in the third tournament of her comeback.
   Puig is ranked No. 50 in the world. Kleybanova is No. 361 after reaching a career-high No. 20 in February 2011 and falling out of the rankings during her two-year layoff. She is allowed to using her protected ranking of No. 26, where she stood when she left the tour, to enter one Grand Slam tournament.
   Kleybanova, 5-foot-11 (1.81 meters) and 159 pounds (72 kilograms), lost in the second round of the Australian Open in January 2011 and was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma (cancer of the immune system) that May. She underwent chemotherapy and radiation in Italy and returned to competition this May, winning a $10,000 tournament in Landisville, Pa.
   Kleybanova has played in the U.S. Open three times, reaching the second round in 2008 and 2010 and losing in the first round in 2009.
   Here's a link to an in-depth story on Kleybanova: 
   Also playing during Monday's day session will be 32nd-seeded Dmitry Tursunov, who trains at the Gorin Tennis Academy in the Sacramento suburb of Granite Bay, and wild card Bradley Klahn, a former Stanford star who won his first Challenger title two weeks ago in Aptos, Calif.
   Tursunov, seeking his first U.S. Open main-draw victory in five years, will face Aljaz Bedene of Slovenia. Klahn has a tough assignment against fellow left-hander Kenny De Schepper, a 6-foot-8 (2.03-meter) Frenchman.
   Other players with Northern California ties will open on Tuesday or Wednesday.
   Aptos connection -- Klahn is one of nine men in the U.S. Open singles field who played in the $100,000 Comerica Bank Challenger in Aptos. Three earned direct entry based on their world rankings, two emerged from this week's qualifying event, and four received wild cards.
   Gaining direct entry were No. 90 Guido Pella of Argentina, No. 102 Evgeny Donskoy of Russia and No. 116 Steve Johnson of Orange in the Los Angeles area. Pella and Donskoy were seeded first and second, respectively, in Aptos. Johnson, the defending champion there, lost in the first round to 2007 titlist Donald Young.
   Aptos runner-up Daniel Evans of Great Britain and Young, a Chicago native living in Atlanta, each won three qualifying matches this week to advance to the main draw of the U.S. Open.  Evans will take on 11th-seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan on Monday morning.
   Granted wild cards in addition to Klahn were fellow Americans Brian Baker and Ryan Harrison and Australian James Duckworth.

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