September 21, 2023

Open Court


Another comeback begins for Victoria Duval

American Victoria Duval has already fought back from Hodgkin’s lymphoma and knee surgery. She successfully began a third comeback Wednesday at Indian Harbour Beach, Fla. with a win over Ajla Tomljanovic of Croatia.

Duval defeated Tomljanovic, who has just begun a comeback of her own (from shoulder surgery) 7-6 (0) 2-6, 6-3 to advance to a second-round match against 25-year-old qualifier Kaitlyn Christian.

At 21, Duval has already been through her fair share of trial. The Hodgkin’s lymphoma diagnosis came after she won her first qualifying round at Wimbledon in 2014. She played on, getting through qualifying and upsetting No. 29 seed Sorana Cirstea of Romania before bowing out to Belinda Bencic in the second round of the main draw.

She returned just before the US Open the following year but shut it down again after the 2016 Australian Open, after just three tournaments, because of the knee.

After another five months away, Duval returned for the grass-court season. But three first-round losses later, it was clear that while she may have fought a successful battle against the cancer, the body had not yet fully recovered enough to withstand the rigours of professional tennis. And so, she took the time.

One leg heavily wrapped and one ankle strapped, Duval finally returned Wednesday.

Another comeback still a work in progress

While the latest comeback is still in its infancy, Duval has had a (relatively) easier road than another WTA Tour player who also battled Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Russia’s Alisa Kleybanova.

Klebanova, now 27, announced her diagnosis on her 22nd birthday in July, 2011. She was then just months away from her career ranking high of No. 20.

The first comeback attempt came  in March of the following year at the Miami Open. Since then, it’s been a bumpy road. After that one-off appearance in Miami, the Boynton Beach, Fla resident didn’t return for another 15 months. She ran off a 15-1 record in three small U.S. events in the summer of 2013 before coming back to the top level.

All seemed well in Dec. 2013, when she practiced in Florida to prepare for the 2014 season.

And she was in fine spirits in Australia in early 2014, seen here with physical trainer Scott Byrnes (then working with Vera Zvonareva, currently with Madison Keys).

In 2014, her Duval and Kleybanova’s paths intersected. Kleybanova defeated the young American in the first round of qualifying at Indian Wells in March. Her last tournament before another extended break was Wimbledon, the tournament where Duval received her own Hodgkin’s diagnosis.

No news for nearly a year

Kleybanova was out another 15 months, returning in November, 2015 for a series of four $10,000 ITF tournament in Turkey. She went 18-2. And then … she was gone again. Except for one match in Romania in late May, 2016 (she retired at 4-4 in the first set), she hasn’t been seen since.

The Russian was on the entry lists for several tournaments this spring – Indian Wells, Miami, Charleston. So there was hope all of her health issues were finally behind her. But she withdrew from all of them.

There has been absolutely no news about her other than those appearances in the entry lists.

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