Perhaps it's fitting that the Silver Lining Foundation, run by former professional player Andrea Jaeger, has its main fund-raising dinner during the Acura Classic on Thursday at the La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad. A figure of hope and inspiration will be returning to the WTA Tour for the first time in nearly 15 months.
Corina Morariu, 24, abruptly returned home to Boca Raton, Fla., from Europe in May 2001 when she started suffering from nosebleeds and bruising. She entered the hospital and was diagnosed with a form of leukemia called acute promyelocytic leukemia.
"It's a gradual struggle," said Morariu. "It's still a little bit of a struggle. I don't think about it every day, but I have to get checked once a month and I have to take oral chemotherapy once every day. So there's still a possibility that it can come back, and that's always a thought that crosses your mind."
Her closest friends were amazed when she told them of her plans to return to the circuit so quickly. Morariu and her doubles partner Kimberly Po-Messerli were given a wild-card spot by tournament organizers and will play Chanda Rubin-Meghann Shaughnessy today in the first round.
"When she called me and told me she was coming back, I was so surprised, I said, 'Are you sure? Is it going to be OK?' " said Lindsay Davenport, a close friend and former doubles partner of Morariu. "But Corina said she's fine, she's ready to go. And it'll be really neat to see her out there again."
The return of Morariu promises to be an emotional highlight of what is traditionally one of the more prestigious Tier II events on the tour. Two-time defending champion Venus Williams is in the upper half of the draw with No. 3 Davenport, No. 5 Kim Clijsters of Belgium and No. 7 Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia.
In the lower half are No. 2 Jennifer Capriati, No. 4 Monica Seles, No. 6 Jelena Dokic of Yugoslavia and No. 8 Elena Dementieva of Russia.
Williams, who beat Clijsters in the final at Stanford on Sunday, defeated Seles last year to win at La Costa. She also won in 2000 and lost in the final in 1999. Her younger sister, Serena, the French Open and Wimbledon champion, is not playing at La Costa, and is scheduled to next appear at Manhattan Beach, the week after La Costa.