Vicky Duval left Wimbledon last year achieving her goal of cracking the world's Top 100, but she also received the news that rocked her world: she was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Duval received the diagnosis before her first qualifying match and, against all odds, went on to qualify, earning a spot in the main draw of Wimbledon. She then upset No.29 seed Sorana Cirstea in the first round before falling to fellow WTA Rising Star Belinda Bencic. She hasn't played since, but today she announced she's ready to take on the WTA once again.
Duval has her eyes set on returning to the grounds of the US Open, where the tennis world first met her in 2012, taking on Kim Clijsters in her final tournament and then the next year, upsetting 2011 champion Samantha Stosur in the first round.
"It's been an incredibly long journey, but I'm so ready to compete and can't see a better place to start than the U.S. Open," Duval told wtatennis.com. "I'm playing my first tournament at a $25,000 ITF event in Landisville, Pennsylvania and possibly the WTA in New Haven after."
It will be 14 months since Duval last competed on the WTA circuit, but one thing that hasn't changed is the 19-year-old's positive outlook. She saw her break from the game as a blessing in disguise and was able to do a lot of "normal" activities.
"The one thing I was happy to invest a lot of time in was my art. I've been able to get so much better at different kinds of art techniques and it was a form of therapy for me. I interned in an office for a short time and learn 'real world' tasks and got to be around people who aren't just athletes. I also shared the story of my cancer in a TED Talk. My illness gave me a breath of fresh air and gave me insight on my tennis career."
The road back will be a long one for Duval, but with Corina Morariu, Alisa Kleybanova and ATP player Ross Hutchins as inspirations of cancer survivors making it back on the tour, she's more than ready.
"I know my best tennis is ahead of me. I know God gave me this gift to share to others and I'm more than eager to get back on tour."
Duval plans to share her comeback through her YouTube channel, where she hopes to collaborate with players that she kept in touch with while she was out of the game.
"The support I got from other players was incredible. I did a video with Madison Brengle, so hopefully I can do some more fun travel stuff on the road."
While Duval has her immediate plans on Flushing Meadows, she's already looking past the year's final Grand Slam.
"For 2015, after the Open, I think my schedule will be mostly Challenger tournaments in the States. I may play Québec City or the 125 in California in November, but I'm going to listen to my body after New York and plan accordingly."
The grass is definitely greener for Duval, who aims to do better than her career-high No.87 ranking.
"Of course you want to do better than your previous best, but my main priority is staying healthy and playing a full season. I've been given the chance to come back and I don't want to waste it."
She hopes to use her comeback as a platform to help others overcome adversity and persevere through it.
"I want to show people that sometimes you're dealt with a tough situation beyond your control, but all you can do is make the best of it. An illness doesn't define me, but how I bounce back is what I hope people will remember."