Moscow: Russian tennis player Alisa Kleybanova, who celebrated her 22nd birthday on Friday, has revealed she has been diagnosed with cancer.
Kleybanova, the world number 28, is suffering from Hodgkin`s Lymphoma.
"It`s my birthday today and I want to thank all of you for the wonderful messages. I haven`t written anything for a long time about why I haven`t been on tour, so that`s why I`m writing this today," she said in a statement.
"It`s not an easy time for me right now. I`ve been a bit unlucky with my health. I have Hodgkin`s Lymphoma, a form of cancer.”
"I`ve been having treatment in Italy and it has been going well, but it takes lots of patience and I`ve had to be really strong to get through this. The good news is after I do treatment for a few more months, if I feel well, there`s a chance I`ll be able to play tennis again.”
"I really miss playing - I miss seeing fans and friends around the world, I miss hitting the ball, I miss everything. Tennis has been my life for the last 15 years."
The Moscow-based player reached a career high of 20 after the Dubai tournament in February, but illness forced her to pull out of the French Open and Wimbledon.
Kleybanova has collected two WTA titles -- at Kuala Lumpur in 2010 and in Seoul in 2008 with her best Grand Slam performances coming at Wimbledon in 2008 and the Australian Open in 2009, where she reached the fourth round on both occasions.
The Fed Cup team member is undergoing treatment in the Italian city of Perugia.
"There are a few reasons I`m undergoing treatment in Italy. First, I have a training base and many close friends here, so it`s like home," she said.
"Second, they have a really great hospital here that specializes in this problem; I`ve been going there since the problem started, so the doctors know me well. It`s the best place for me to be - the surroundings help me stay strong.
"This is the toughest time in my life, and I hope it always stays the toughest time in my life. I`m sure I`ll be able to overcome this - it`s just a matter of patience and time. When this is over, everything will be even better than before.”
"I won`t be on tour for a little while, but I will see you all again soon."
The WTA praised Kleybanova`s courage.
"The thoughts of the WTA and the entire tennis family are with Alisa and her family at this difficult time," said a WTA statement.
"Alisa is a very strong and optimistic person and we wish her a speedy and full recovery."
Fellow players also sent their best wishes to the Russian.
"Wishing Alisa Kleybanova all the best as she battles Hodgkin`s Lymphoma. Will miss her on tour, great player and lovely person," tweeted Britain`s Laura Robson.
Germany`s Julia Goerges also tweeted: "girl i wish u all the best."