OEIRAS, Portugal - The memory of her twin sister still strong, Sandra Klemenschits will keep the fight against cancer alive this coming November with Together We Are Stronger, a charity event that will raise funds to help out young cancer patients - it was Daniela Klemenschits' wish, after all.
After years of success as professionals, particularly in doubles, both Daniela and Sandra had to leave the tour in early 2007 after being diagnosed with a rare form of abdominal cancer. Sandra was able to make it through, even returning to the tour in 2008 - Daniela did not make it through, however.
"When they diagnosed us and told us that kind of cancer was incurable, and that we didn't have much time to live, it shocked us," Sandra said. "You start thinking about your life, asking yourself a million times, 'Why us? Did we do something wrong?' A million thoughts were going through my mind.
"It was a very difficult time for my family and me. It was not easy to come back to a normal life, let alone play tennis again, after all the surgeries I had and losing my sister at the same time.
"My sister was my other half - when I lost her, it was like something died in me as well."
But there was one person in particular who inspired her to keep playing. "I promised my sister just before her death to keep fighting and never give up, and always stay positive," she said. "She was a very positive and encouraging person and that was what inspired me to play tennis again - for her."
And there was another person with whom the comeback trail started with - former WTA player Marlene Weingärtner. "I met Marlene in our tennis coaching course and we decided we'd play a tournament just for fun, to enjoy ourselves - but that's how it all started again! We played at Bad Gastein in 2008 after my long break, and that's a big memory for me. Bad Gastein is a special place for me."
Four and a half years, 18 ITF Circuit doubles titles and another WTA final later, Klemenschits is a doubles regular now, continuing to play the discipline she loves most. "I love doubles because it reminds me of playing with my sister, and because I like being part of a team. And if one player is having a bad day, the other can still balance it out. Plus, I really love playing at the net!"
And with her passion for tennis burning as strong as ever now, Klemenschits is on another mission - raising money for young cancer patients. "When you experience the kind of situation Dani and I were in, you know how important it is to get help when you don't have the resources to pay for all the tests and treatments you need to stay alive. That's why I decided to help other people in need."
The Together We Are Stronger charity event will be held later this year on Saturday, November 9, in Anif, Austria, and in addition to an on-court portion it will include raffles, dinner and music.
"It was Dani's special wish to have charity events to help young cancer patients. This is the third time we are doing this and I have so many people to thank for helping it come true - Barbara Schett, who helped start it, Barbara Schwartz, my former coach Gerald Mandl, my family, my friends - there are so many people who do so much to make this happen, there are really just too many to mention."
And on her own tennis goals? "For me, I'm really looking forward to playing in Bad Gastein and Linz this year, they are always the highlights of my year," she said. "My main goal, though, is to have fun in every match and try to perform my best, and just see what happens. I also hope to just stay healthy - that's even bigger than playing tennis matches. But overall I'm just still enjoying the game."