In May 2001 the Detroit-born Corina Morariu learned she had leukemia. Three weeks ago she returned to the WTA tour. On Monday, as she prepared for the U.S. Open, Morariu, 24, spoke to SI. Last week I received a wild card to play singles at the Open. I could draw Venus Williams or Jennifer Capriati—it doesn't matter. I'm approaching this the way I approached my first singles match back, at the JP Morgan Chase Tournament earlier this month. It was so incredible to be back I couldn't be devastated even when I lost in the first round. This is a long process and a long journey.
There were symptoms months before I was even diagnosed in May 2001. I felt lethargic, and I had difficulty concentrating. But I was in great shape and had been ranked Number 1 in doubles. So I told myself I was just tired from working out Soon, though, I was getting nosebleeds five, six times a night and waking up with bruises all over. When my doctor told me I had leukemia, I finally went to the hospital. I was so sick I couldn't get out of bed to go to the bathroom, and they started chemotherapy immediately.
When I left the hospital a month later, the cancer was in remission. But because of infections I had to go back for three more stays. When I finally stepped back onto the court in January, I'd tire after five minutes. By April I could practice two hours a day, but it wasn't until June that I was putting in close to the work I once did.
At the Open I'll play doubles with Kimberly Po-Messerli. Tennis is now a new battle. I'm unranked, and I'm just getting back into it. I take chemo pills each day. There are frustrating moments out there, but I have the perspective of knowing where I was this time last year. There are worse things in life than losing tennis matches.