Thursday, November 21, 2013

Cancer survivor named WTA Comeback Player of Year

Alisa Kleybanova returned to the WTA tour after
missing almost all of two years with Hodgkin's
lymphoma. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Rising to No. 185 in the world might not seem like much of a comeback.
   But only one other winner of the WTA Comeback Player of the Year award, which began in 1987, is as deserving as Alisa Kleybanova.
   The WTA announced the 2013 honor today, along with Simona Halep of Romania as the Most Improved Player.
   The organization's awards will be completed on Friday when the Player of the Year, surely Serena Williams, and Doubles Team of the Year, likely Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci or Peng Shuai and Su-Wei Hsieh, are named. The first honor, Newcomer of the Year, went to Eugenie Bouchard of Canada on Thursday.
   Five months after Kleybanova reached a career-high No. 20 in February 2011, the 5-foot-11 (1.81-meter), 159-pound (72-kilogram) Russian revealed that she was suffering from Hodgkin's lymphoma (cancer of the lymph glands).
   Kleybanova, 24, is the second player to win the comeback award after overcoming cancer. American Corina Morariu, a former Sacramento Capital in World TeamTennis who was diagnosed with leukemia in 2001, earned the honor the following year.
   Kleybanova sat out for almost all of two years, undergoing chemotherapy and radiation in Italy, and dropped out of the rankings. She returned in May, winning a $10,000 Futures tournament in Landisville, Pa.
   In the third tournament of her comeback, Kleybanova reached the quarterfinals of the $50,000 FSP Gold River Women's Challenger in the Sacramento area in July. She lost to former top-100 player Ivana Lisjak of Croatia 0-6, 6-2, 7-6 (2) in 108-degree (42-degree Celsius) heat.
   Kleybanova then returned to the major leagues of women's tennis, playing in four tournaments and the Fed Cup final. She lost in the first round at Toronto, reached the second round at Cincinnati and the U.S. Open and advanced to the quarterfinals in her native Moscow.
   Kleybanova knocked off then-No. 17 Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain in the second round at Moscow before losing to eventual champion Halep.
   Russia, playing without its top 11 players in the Fed Cup final on Nov. 2-3, lost to full-strength Italy 4-0 on clay in Cagliari, Sardinia. Kleybanova dropped her only match, 6-1, 6-1 to the seventh-ranked Errani.
"I know things are always going to be up and down. I'm not expecting to win everything and come back to the Top 20 so quickly. But I'm ready for the journey," Kleybanova said after her Fed Cup defeat to Errani. "I'm really happy to be back. I've been through enough tough things already. I'm feeling great physically now, I know what I need to work on, and I got my ranking up pretty quickly already this year.
"I just have to stay positive about things, have a nice off-season, train hard, stay healthy, stay away from injuries, and just have a good preparation over the next weeks to get ready for the new season.
"And after that, I hope to play the 2014 season from the first month to the last month."
- See more at: http://www.wtatennis.com/news/article/3544165/title/comeback-player-of-the-year-alisa#sthash.O13A6rI7.dpuf
   "I know things are always going to be up and down," Kleybanova said after losing to Errani. "I'm not expecting to win everything and come back to the top 20 so quickly. But I'm ready for the journey.
   "I'm really happy to be back. I've been through enough tough things already. I'm feeling great physically now, I know what I need to work on, and I got my ranking up pretty quickly already this year.
   "I just have to stay positive about things, have a nice offseason, train hard, stay healthy and just have a good preparation over the next weeks to get ready for the new season. And after that, I hope to play the 2014 season from the first month to the last month."
   Halep, 22, earned the first six WTA singles titles of her career from June through October, jumping from No. 58 in the world to a year-end No. 11.
WTA COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR
(Since 1995)
1995--Monica Seles, United States
1996--Jennifer Capriati, United States
1997--Mary Pierce, France
1998--Monica Seles, United States
1999--Sabine Appelmans, Belgium
2000--Iva Majoli, Croatia
2001--Barbara Schwartz, Austria
2002--Corina Morariu, United States
2003--Amelie Mauresmo, France
2004--Serena Williams, United States
2005--Kim Clijsters, Belgium
2006--Martina Hingis, Switzerland
2007--Lindsay Davenport, United States
2008--Zheng Jie, China
2009--Kim Clijsters, Belgium
2010--Justine Henin, Belgium
2011--Sabine Lisicki, Germany
2012--Yaroslava Shvedova, Kazakhstan
2013--Alisa Kleybanova, Russia
WTA MOST IMPROVED PLAYER
(Since 1995)
1995--Chanda Rubin, United States
1996--Martina Hingis, Switzerland
1997--Amanda Coetzer, South Africa
1998--Patty Schnyder, Switzerland
1999--Serena Williams, United States
2000--Elena Dementieva, Russia
2001--Justine Henin-Hardenne, Belgium
2002--Daniela Hantuchova, Slovakia
2003--Nadia Petrova, Russia
2004--Maria Sharapova, Russia
2005--Ana Ivanovic, Serbia
2006--Jelena Jankovic, Serbia
2007--Ana Ivanovic, Serbia
2008--Dinara Safina, Russia
2009--Yanina Wickmayer, Belgium
2010--Francesca Schiavone, Italy
2011--Petra Kvitova, Czech Republic
2012--Sara Errani, Italy
2013--Simona Halep, Romania

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