(August 26, 2013) FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Whether it’s a win or a loss, it’s a win-win situation for Alisa Kleybanova. On Monday, the Russian who is playing her first major since the 2011 Australian Open battled past No 44 Monica Puig of Puerto Rico 6-4, 3-6, 7-5. In the spring of 2011 Kleybanova was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of blood cancer.
“For me, it’s one of the first big tournaments I’ve played since a long break,” said the Russian. “I’m just taking it step by step, enjoying it every day, trying to improve as much as I can, and, you know, play my best tennis.”
“She played very solidly from the beginning and fought her way back,” said Puig of her opponent’s play. “She’s been 20 in the world. It’s amazing to see all that she’s come back from. All credit to her.”
The Russian is slowing making progress to return to the place where she was – a top 20 player.
“It’s still hard for me to say how it’s going to be, you know, on the long run because I haven’t played so many matches yet. It’s difficult to play your best from the beginning, you know.
“I’ve been training a lot. I know I’m doing the right things. I know I’m getting there. But I still need a lot more matches, a lot more tournaments to be more consistent, you know, to feel better on the court, you know, to be able to manage the stress level out there.
“You know, everything is a little bit new for me right now, so I’m just trying to feel everything, you know, and try to deal with things as good as I can for the moment. Just try to win every point and not think about which tournament I’m playing, you know, how important it is, all that stuff.”
“I hear a lot from people that I’m a big inspiration for them,” said Kleybanova. ” A lot of people now look up to me. I mean, I think it’s great. I don’t want to be like an example, but if I am, I think it’s very nice.”
“But if my story inspires people and, you know, it gives them more belief on things, it makes them feel stronger at some point, I mean, that’s great. I think, you know, people always need someone to look up to, as I when I was young. I was looking up to certain people in my life, setting up certain goals. I think it’s great.”
For Puig, who had a lot spectators cheering for her during the match and who is very popular in her native Puerto Rico, said that the loss is just another learning experience. “It’s just one of these bumps in the road,” Puig said. “It’s not my last Grand Slam I’m going to play, so I have to look at it that way.
“I had a lot of fan support out there today, so I am just very grateful.”
Kleybanova is currently ranked No. 363 in the world and will play Jelena Jankovic in the second round.
Karen Pestaina for Tennis Panorama News