NEW YORK—Ten years ago, Madison Brengle won her first professional title, an ITF Futures event in Baltimore. She was 15 years old and ended the year at No. 777 in the world rankings.
It took six long years for Brengle to capture her second title, after officially turning pro at 17 and meandering around the Top 200. This year, the first time in her career, she’ll play in the main draw at all four majors.
It has been a decade’s worth of grinding for the 25-year-old American. So perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that Brengle was able to claw back from a 5-2 third-set deficit in her first-round match at the U.S. Open against Saisai Zheng, all while dealing with a pulled back muscle. Brengle is used to the grind, and the fight—on and off the court.
After last year’s U.S. Open—Brengle’s first main draw at a major since the 2008 French Open—she noticed an unusual growth on her leg and had it tested. Her dermatologist called while she in Quebec City with the news: It was skin cancer.
Remarkably, Brengle put together a 10-match winning streak in late September, winning a $50,000 ITF tournament in Las Vegas and reaching the quarterfinals the WTA event in Linz. In October, she had the cancerous spot removed—only to discover a mass in her jaw that needed testing.
“I lost some sleep over that during the off-season,” Brengle says. “I really, really lost some sleep. I started going to nighttime Pure Barre [workout] classes so I would be so tired that I would just be able to fall asleep. Stress does weird things to your body.”