After just over a year away, Brazil’s Luisa Stefani is back.
And she’s got bestie Gabriela Dabrowski at her side as she returns from a gruesome knee injury in Chennai this week.
Dabrowski and Stefani, longtime great friends, finally teamed up last summer on the court. They were an instant smash: finals in San Jose, champions in Montreal, and finalists in Cincinnati.
And it was going terrifically well at the US Open, where they reached the semifinals.
But in the first-set tiebreak against Americans Coco Gauff and Caty McNally, Stefani was felled with a knee injury, and the pair had to detault.
Surgery and countless months of rehab later, Stefani is back.
Meanwhile, Dabrowski and new partner Giuliana Olmos have had a great season, with Olmos making the top 10 for the first time, and the pair at No. 2 in the race for the WTA Finals in Fort Worth, Texas.
(They had been leading until the Czech pair of Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova leapt from No. 7 to No. 1 with their US Open title).
Stefani and Dabrowski close the books on a tough 12 months
This week, Dabrowski will play with Stefani in Chennai, where they are the No. 1 seeds.
It doesn’t mean that Dabrowski and Olmos are over; far from it.
Making the finals is a big deal, and Stefani and Dabrowski were in the mix to get there a year ago, until their campaign was cut short.
But with Dabrowski and Olmos headed over to Tokyo for a week, the Canadian thought it made sense to tack on another week overseas. And with Stefani still having a reasonably high ranking at the entry deadline for Chennai, it all fit into place.
And it was a ray of sunshine for Dabrowski, who was devastated after a three-set loss to the Czechs at the US Open – in large part because they were on Louis Armstrong Stadium, where Stefani’s injury occurred.
“Those are things you can’t wipe from your mind. They’re literally in your bones. Because it’s a trigger, after a traumatic event happened. And I know it didn’t happen to me, but she’s one of my best friends,” Dabrowski told Open Court after the defeat. “I feel like even though I haven’t felt her pain physically, I’ve definitely been there along the journey of the incident happening, the aftermath, Being a supportive friend the entire year.”
Stefani was in New York, cheering Dabrowski on.
(We caught this hug after an early-round win – but obviously not well enough!)
Stefani’s ranking was still in the top 100 at the Chennai deadline. So it was a perfect opportunity to get back on court without using her protected ranking.
“So she needed to play with somebody. And why not play with a good friend and have fun, see how it goes and kind of assess where she’s at in terms of playing at the WTA level and stuff like that,” Dabrowski said. “I’m really looking forward to it, because it’s almost closes the door on it.”