Kleybanova was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma the summer of 2011, shortly after cracking the Top 20 for the first time. She tried to come back at Miami in March of 2012, but was still fatigued and took another year off before launching another comeback this spring, when she won 14 of 16 matches at the ITF circuit level.
In WTA-level competition, Kleybanova went 4-4 during the U.S. Open Series. The world No. 185 also was part of the Russian Fed Cup team that lost to Italy in the final.
"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,” she said. "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."
The 23-year-old Halep held a 7-9 record going into Rome, but qualified and then upset Svetlana Kuznetsova, Agnieszka Radwanska, Roberta Vinci, and Jelena Jankovic before losing to Serena Williams in the semifinals. While she only reached the second week of a major once, she went 43-8 in her last 14 tournaments, winning her six titles at Nurnberg, 's-Hertogenbosch, Budapest, New Haven, Moscow, and Sofia. She finished the year ranked No.11.