KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. -- At 29, doubles specialist Corina Morariu couldn't be more relaxed about the fact that her competitive career is winding down. She's playing a limited schedule in her 14th season as a professional and beginning to explore options for life after tennis, while thoroughly enjoying every time she's able to step on the court.
AP Photo/Jytte Nielsen
Corina Morariu, left, and Lindsay Davenport won five doubles titles together, including Wimbledon in 1999.That pleasure -- and many more -- were nearly taken from her forever back in 2001 when Morariu was diagnosed with leukemia. She defied her prognosis and lived to play again, although chemotherapy and a subsequent shoulder surgery robbed her of the strength and endurance she needed to play singles -- where she had climbed as far as No. 29 in 1998.
The experience of being forced to take that fork in the road is still fresh in some ways.
"It's a Catch-22," Morariu said after winning her first-round doubles match with new partner Francesca Schiavone of Italy on Sunday at the Sony Ericsson Open. "I'm grateful for the fact that I'm able to play and the fact that I'm alive, but I'm not able to play at the same capability as I used to.
"Overall, I wouldn't trade the appreciation and perspective I have on life now. It's just tough to see people I competed well against still being able to play singles. It's a constant reminder."
The 2007 season will have a different feel for the Detroit-born, Florida-raised Morariu, who was ranked No. 1 in the world in doubles in 2000. It's her first go-round in many years without her best friend and longtime doubles partner Lindsay Davenport, with whom she won five doubles titles and reached the 2005 Australian Open final -- an unexpected and emotional achievement so many years after Morariu's comeback.
"I could not have been happier for her when she got pregnant -- and I was so happy it finally became public, because I thought I was going to blab," Morariu said.
The two live close to each other in southern California and see each other frequently, but Morariu said traveling on the circuit will never be the same for her.
"She was like a sister to me on the road," Morariu said. "And besides our chemistry, she was a great player.
"You don't have a lot of close friendships on the tour, and you have a lot of down time. We love spending time together. Being in Australia without her was a big adjustment for me. She's so sweet now. She follows my scores on line and she texts me all the time."