Cancer victim Kleybanova wins comeback match in Miami

Russia's Alisa Kleybanova has won two WTA Tour titles since turning professional in 2003.

Story highlights

  • Alisa Kleybanova wins on her return to tennis at the Miami Masters
  • The Russian had been out for 10 months battling Hodgkin's Lymphoma
  • The 22-year-old battles to a three-set victory over Sweden's world No. 64 Johanna Larsson
  • Kleybanova has won two WTA titles during her nine years on the circuit

A tennis player's biggest challenge usually comes from the opposite baseline, but Alisa Kleybanova has taken on an opponent of an entirely different nature over the last 10 months.

The former world No. 20 announced in July 2011 she had been diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma, a form of cancer, after missing both the French Open and Wimbledon.

The 22-year-old Russian made a successful return to the court at the Miami Masters on Tuesday after battling to overcome the disease.

It was a fairytale return for Kleybanova, who was handed a wildcard for the U.S. hard-court tournament, as she came from behind to record a 2-6 6-3 6-2 first-round win against 64th-ranked Swede Johanna Larsson..

Venus Williams vows to rise again

Venus Williams set for comeback
Venus Williams set for comeback


    Venus Williams set for comeback


Venus Williams set for comeback 04:30

"The first match back from anything is always difficult, but especially this time I really had no idea how it was going to be out there," Kleybanova told the WTA's official website.

"Tennis-wise I felt pretty good from the beginning but Johanna has a difficult game to play against, she makes you run a lot out there -- she makes you tired even if you're in your best shape."

Kleybanova, who will face 20th-seeded compatriot Maria Kirilenko next, said fighting the illness has given her a different perspective on the sport.

"I'm looking at my matches differently now," she said. "It's my work, but I really just wanted to enjoy every point and every moment.

"Even when I lost the first set I wanted to stay positive and just enjoy myself out there, and that's why I was able to stay out there and change the way the match was going.

"It's not just about the win though, it's that I'm back on court. If I didn't win, it's not like I would have been mad. I was just happy to be playing points, feeling all the emotions again... it's something I missed a lot and it was all out there today."

It was also a memorable occasion for Kleybanova's coach Julian Vespan, who she described as her "best friend."

"Of course he's very, very happy I won, but he's also my best friend and he feels happy when I feel good and when I'm smiling. He just wants me to be happy. When he saw me enjoying myself again he was very happy for me."


      • Rafael Nadal of Spain watches the ball in his match against Martin Klizan of Slovakia during during day seven of the China Open at the National Tennis Center on October 3, 2014 in Beijing, China.

        What does 2015 hold for Rafa?

        Rafael Nadal's body might be giving him a few problems, but his mind remains as strong as ever. Will the Spaniard add to his haul of 14 grand slam titles?
      • LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 17: Wimbledon champion Andy Murray and his long time girlfriend Kim Sears arrive at Buckingham Palace on October 17, in London, England. Murray will become an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) and receive his medal from the Duke of Cambridge. (Photo by John Stillwell - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

        Love game: Andy Murray to tie knot

        The Scot has served up a few changes to his support team in 2014 but there's one person who isn't going anywhere -- his new fiancée Kim Sears.
      • Despite being forced to retire at the age of 24 due to health problems, Lacoste remained in the game and went on start the "Lacoste" brand in 1933, which specialised in tennis products. The inspiration for the company's logo came from his nickname as a player, "le crocodile."

        'Crocodile' who broke all the rules

        His distinctive crocodile logo is seen on clothing all over the world, but Rene Lacoste also left a lasting legacy in the development of tennis.
      • Serena Williams of the US holds the US Open trophy after defeating Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark during their US Open 2014 women's singles finals match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Center September 7, 2014 in New York. AFP PHOTO/Stan HONDA (Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

        Serena savors U.S. Open win

        Serena Williams is without peer in the modern women's game and now she is on a par with two American tennis legends from the past.
      • American tennis player and golfer Althea Gibson (right) receives a kiss from compatriot Darlene Hard, whom she beat in two sets to become the first black woman to win the Women's Singles Finals at Wimbledon.

        The amazing life of Althea Gibson

        Over the course of her remarkable life, Althea Gibson was many things to many people -- but it was tennis where she really left her mark.
      • Courting couple at match point

        "I didn't cry once when I practiced in front of the mirror," says Martin Emmrich. But the nerves kicked in when he got down on one knee on court.
      • LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 03: Tennis / Frauen: Wimbledon 2004, London; Finale; Siegerin Maria SHARAPOVA / RUS 03.07.04. (Photo by Bongarts/Bongarts/Getty Images)

        'Baby' Sharapova's big moment

        It's 10 years since a teenage Maria Sharapova became the darling of Wimbledon's hallowed Center Court, launching herself as a star.
      • 'Swiss Miss' follows mom's lead

        Five-time grand slam champion Martina Hingis has followed her mom into a coaching role, setting up a new tennis academy in Barcelona, Spain.