Lest we forget, Alisa Kleybanova was a 21-year-old who had Kim Clijsters on the ropes in an Australian Open tuneup match in 2011. Her big strokes and wind-it-up swings were reminiscent of Lindsay Davenport at her own peak.
And they still are. Kleybanova is going to Miami.
She returns to WTA competition this week at the Sony Ericsson Open on Key Biscayne, Florida after a 10-month hiatus to undergo treatments for and recover from a bout with Hodgkin's lymphoma. Her fight and her grit outside of the lines of the tennis court bring to mind doubles specialist Corina Morariu's battle with leukemia in 2001, as well as Venus Williams' current struggle with Sjogren's syndrome.
Here was her original departure letter, on July 15, 2011, her 22nd birthday. Such well-put words. We see once again that while sport can be a metaphor for life, life itself supersedes everything. "It's tennis, it's a sport, and you are never at your best every day," Kleybanova said. "Keep working, and I think the most important thing is to be happy with a smile on your face, because if you're suffering, it's never going to work."
This is a person who should have even more of a following. Give her some love, all ye tweeters. And do follow her results for the rest of this year. She opens her wild-card Miami campaign against Johanna Larsson.
Venus, also a wild card, will play Kimiko Date-Krumm in round one, with Petra Kvitova lurking beyond that. Here's hoping that these comeback champs fare well in Florida, come what may. They have already exceeded expectations just by holding court once again at this elite level.
—Jonathan Scott (Find me on Twitter @jonscott9.)