Kleybanova Taking One Step At A Time
Published September 04, 2013 12:00
NEW YORK, NY, USA - While her US Open campaign may have ended in second round defeat, Alisa Keybanova knows that she has come out on top in a far more important battle over the past few years.
In July 2011, Kleybanova's charge up the rankings was placed on hold indefinitely when she was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma. After a successful course of treatment the Russian briefly returned to the tour last year before making a full-time comeback in May.
Since then Kleybanova has mixed in the odd high-profile tournament with appearances on the ITF Circuit as she eases herself back into competitive tennis. The US Open was her highest-profile outing to date, although Kleybanova was certainly not overawed by the step up.
"I don't feel any difference now being at the Grand Slam locker room or big event locker room," Kleybanova said. "It's still the same players. The atmosphere is pretty much the same.
"Of course, a Grand Slam is one of the most important tournaments of the year, but I'm not thinking about that right now. You know, I haven't played every tournament throughout the year like everyone else.
"For me, it's one of the first big tournaments I've played since a long break. I'm just taking it step by step, enjoying it every day, trying to improve as much as I can, and, you know, play my best tennis."
While her progress has been steady rather than spectacular, there have certainly been encouraging signs, such as her hard-fought victory over the high-flying Monica Puig in the first round last week.
"If you go on the court you have to want to win that match, and I went on the court and I wanted to win that match," she said after her win over Puig. "And I knew it would be tough because here everyone is tough to beat.
"But my goal was to end up winning the match no matter what it takes. It took a very long time, but I did it, and I'm very happy about it."
As encouraging as her showing in the year's final major was, the Russian is level-headed enough not to get carried away. "It's still hard for me to say how it's going to be in the long run because I haven't played many matches yet.
"I've been training a lot. I know I'm doing the right things. I know I'm getting there. But I still need a lot more matches, a lot more tournaments to be more consistent and to feel better on the court.
"Everything is a little bit new for me right now, so I'm just trying to feel everything, you know, and try to deal with things as good as I can for the moment. I just try to win every point and try not to think about which tournament I'm playing or how important it is."