Skip to main content

Cancer victim Kleybanova wins comeback match in Miami

March 21, 2012 -- Updated 1733 GMT (0133 HKT)
Russia's Alisa Kleybanova has won two WTA Tour titles since turning professional in 2003.
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

(CNN) -- 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 set for comeback

Venus Williams vows to rise again

"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.

It's my work, but I really just wanted to enjoy every point and every moment
Alisa Kleybanova

"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."

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
June 30, 2014 -- Updated 1135 GMT (1935 HKT)
When Agnieszka Radwanska refused to look her opponent in the eye after losing at Wimbledon, it raised more than eyebrows.
June 23, 2014 -- Updated 0114 GMT (0914 HKT)
It's 10 years since a teenage Maria Sharapova became the darling of Wimbledon's hallowed Center Court, launching herself as a star.
Rafael Nadal is still the "King of Clay" -- but his crown has slipped a bit, says CNN's Will Edmonds.
May 23, 2014 -- Updated 0746 GMT (1546 HKT)
He's regularly voted France's favorite famous person, but many of the nation's youth have "no idea" about his glorious sporting past
May 5, 2014 -- Updated 2359 GMT (0759 HKT)
British tennis player Elena Baltacha won 11 ITF Pro Circuit titles during her 16-year playing career.
The Ukrainian-born, British tennis star loses fight against liver cancer, just a few weeks after revealing that she was battling the disease.
April 29, 2014 -- Updated 1555 GMT (2355 HKT)
Five-time grand slam champion Martina Hingis has followed her mom into a coaching role, setting up a new tennis academy in Barcelona, Spain.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1238 GMT (2038 HKT)
Suisse's Belinda Bencic returns the ball to France's Alize Cornet during the second match of the Fed Cup first round tennis tie France vs Switzerland on February 8, 2014 at the Pierre de Coubertin stadium in Paris. AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)
It's no easy matter becoming a world class tennis player. It's even harder when everyone (really -- everyone) is calling you the "new Martina Hingis."
April 2, 2014 -- Updated 1420 GMT (2220 HKT)
At the 2009 Australian Open, French men's tennis was the talk of the town.
April 15, 2014 -- Updated 1800 GMT (0200 HKT)
MONTE-CARLO, MONACO - APRIL 14: Rafael Nadal of Spain sails a boat during day two of the ATP Monte Carlo Rolex Masters Tennis at Monte-Carlo Sporting Club on April 14, 2014 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Rafael Nadal may be most at home on a clay tennis court, but he has always found comfort on the sea.
March 21, 2014 -- Updated 1107 GMT (1907 HKT)
Tennis star Venus Williams reveals how she is beating the autoimmune disease that derailed her career.
March 5, 2014 -- Updated 1014 GMT (1814 HKT)
After two decades dedicated to the game, Amelie Mauresmo wants a second life -- one away from tennis.
Rafael Nadal of Spain wipes his face after losing his men's final match against Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland during day 14 of the 2014 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 26, 2014 in Melbourne, Australia.
Almost five years to the day after reducing Roger Federer to tears at the Australian Open, Rafael Nadal shed a few in his own loser's speech.
ADVERTISEMENT