Philadelphia Freedoms star returns to court

By Catharine Hernson
September 12, 2002

Philadelphia Freedoms tennis star, Corina Morariu, came back to the game after a battle with cancer.

Playing in her first Grand Slam event since being diagnosed with cancer, Morariu was granted a wild card into the singles competition. The rare form of Leukemia forced Morariu to take a year off from tennis. The doubles star, formerly ranked number one in the world, was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia in May of 2001. With doubles partner Lindsay Davenport, Morariu won the 1999 Wimbledon championship in doubles.

Morariu had been playing well in 2001 before the set back. She won the Australian Open, in mixed doubles, with Ellis Ferreira. Then she withdrew from the German Open because of a sprain in her right foot. She then had to withdraw from the next tournament in Rome. As she tried to recover she just became sicker and sicker. She had frequent nosebleeds and spontaneous bruises, so finally she went to a doctor.

After three rounds of chemotherapy Morariu thought about getting back into tennis. At this point, however, she was barely able to walk up a flight of stairs. Morariu fought through her illness and kept going out and working everyday, just so she could get back into the game she loved.

During her battle, Morariu knew the friends she had in the sport would support her. “I had such incredible support through my entire sickness. I had wonderful people pulling for me. family, friends, players. When you go through such a life-threatening situation, it’s frightening and I was comforted by those who reached out to me. I had so many people come visit me in the hospital and send me flowers and get-well cards,” Morariu said. “Jennifer Capriati even dedicated her French Open title to me and held up a pink “GET WELL SOON CORINA” poster which meant a lot to me.”

Morariu has been coming back to tennis slowly, starting with small appearances and making her way to the US Open this past month. Morariu started back on the pro circuit with World Team Tennis on the Philadelphia Freedoms. The Freedoms played seven home matches at Cabrini College as Morariu came back to championship form. “Team tennis will be such a great transition and comeback for me. I’ve always loved playing on a team and it will be so comforting to have that support from my teammates as I get back the court,” Morariu said in a press conference.

The wild card draw had Morariu pitted against Serena Williams on center court. “I probably would have liked a better draw in my first Grand Slam back, I’m not going to lie to you about that. If that meant playing on an outside court, meant that I could win a couple of matches, then it would have been great.” Still this US Open was a personal triumph for Morariu, even though she lost in the first round of singles. Not only did she make it to the semi-finals in mixed doubles, but just before her center court bout with Williams her father called.

She was informed that her cancer remained in remission.

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Catharine Hernson

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