Extra MustardSI On CampusFantasyPhoto GalleriesSwimsuitVideoFanNationSI KidsTNT

There goes my hero

Morariu beat cancer and injury to do what she loves

Posted: Tuesday September 6, 2005 12:05PM; Updated: Tuesday September 6, 2005 6:01PM
Free E-mail AlertsE-mail ThisPrint ThisSave ThisMost PopularRSS Aggregators
Corina Morariu
Over a 15-year career, Corina Morariu has won 11 doubles titles and one singles title.
Submit a comment or question for Justin.
Your name:
Your e-mail address:
Your home town:
Enter your question:

Outspoken tennis pro Justin Gimelstob is writing every few days during the U.S. Open, where he competed in the men's singles, men's doubles and mixed-doubles competition. Click here to read all of Justin's entries.

This year's U.S. Open has an entire menu of feel-good stories. James Blake battling back from injury and his father's death. Andre Agassi spitting in the face of age. Sania Mirza gripping her native India. But there's another one flying underneath the radar who's near and dear to my heart: my own girlfriend.

If you're lucky enough to be at the USTA National Tennis Center on Tuesday, check out Court 11, where Corina Morariu will be competing alongside Patty Schnyder in the women's doubles quarterfinals. Or stop by the Grandstand later to see Morariu in the quarters of mixed doubles, where she's partnering with Mike Bryan.

Corina is an incredible person, and the story of her past four-and-a-half years is inspiring. In 2001, at age 23, Corina was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia. For a while, the prognosis was very poor. But with the aid of brilliant, loving doctors and nurses, she was able to endure the harsh chemotherapy treatment needed for recovery.

Her return to health is a testament to her unwavering resolve and will to live. But that only tells half of the story, the half of things that she couldn't control.

Corina was determined not just to recover from cancer, but also to retain her life as a professional tennis player. Before her illness, Corina had reached as high as a No. 29 world ranking in singles, and a No. 1 ranking in doubles. She had won the women's doubles title at Wimbledon in 1999 with her best friend, Lindsay Davenport, and represented the U.S. that year in Fed Cup play. Two years later, she could barely walk on her own.

It was four years ago this week when Corina was invited by the USTA to the U.S. Open as a guest. I remember seeing Corina with a scarf covering the effects of the chemo, and she was radiant. We spoke briefly, and she was upbeat and positive.

When her health and strength improved, she began the long road back to tennis, and what started with light hitting turned into her being a full-fledged competitor back on the WTA by the following summer. Corina made a triumphant return to the U.S. Open as a player. She played a memorable match against Serena Williams on opening night of the '02 Open, and the whole world saw what a true comeback looked like.

But professionally, Corina had yet more adversity in front of her. Shortly after her initial comeback, she started having shoulder pain. Over the next year, she had to endure two shoulder surgeries and was faced with the decision of whether to start all over again or call it a career.

Corina remained undeterred. While the latest shoulder surgery has shelved her singles career, she has had great success in doubles this year, reaching the finals of the Australian Open and the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo, the semifinals of the French Open and, once again, representing her country in Fed Cup play.

This past July at Wimbledon, Corina passed the monumental three-year mark of being cancer-free. Her determination and grace through adversity has been remarkable -- it's a lesson everyone could learn from.

Make sure you watch this beautiful woman play tennis, and see for yourself what a hero looks like. I'll be in the front row, cheering the loudest.