New York - Nicole
Gibbs lost to reigning Wimbledon champion Simona Halep in the first
round of the US Open on Tuesday, but only after winning a battle with
cancer to even play.
The 26-year-old American underwent surgery in May to treat salivary
gland cancer and fought back to try and qualify for the year's final
Grand Slam tournament in New York.
She fell in the final round of qualifying, but got into the main draw
as a "lucky loser" after other women dropped out, setting her up against
Halep, who last month dispatched 23-time Grand Slam winner Serena
Williams in the Wimbledon final.
Gibbs, ranked 135th in the world after a lengthy layoff, forced a
third set with the fourth-seeded Romanian at Louis Armstrong Stadium but
settled for a moral victory of huge magnitude.
"I've always known that I'm a fighter," Gibbs said.
"But to be
through the journey I've been through over the past few months, to land
myself on Armstrong playing against one of the best in the game, and
going the distance, I think that really just reinforces it for me.
"I'm going to take a lot of inspiration from this, try to carry it forward into what's left in my year and my tennis career."
Gibbs sees tennis and life much differently now compared to last year.
"I think I do have a new perspective, that it's not life and death
out there," Gibbs said.
"It's a privilege to be on a court like that
against a player like that. I was just really trying to soak up the
A new dentist had discovered a growth on the roof of her mouth and a
biopsy showed signs of cancer, stunning news delivered over a telephone.
"I was definitely, like, shocked," she said.
"I had been told not to
really worry about the biopsy. They thought it was going to be benign. I
was nervous about it, but I wasn't anticipating that it would be
"I fortunately was already sitting down, otherwise I think I would
have needed to sit down. Then I was just really disappointed that I was
alone. I called my fiance right away and kind of fell apart when I
called him. He's always such a comforting influence for me, but he was
definitely pretty scared, too, at that moment."
After the operation, Gibbs had to figure out where tennis stood in her life during tense weeks in her cancer fight.
"Just kind of trying to figure out where tennis stood in all of it
from the beginning, trying to figure out whether I should be concerned
about getting back on court or just getting my health back under me,
there was a balance to be struck there," she said.
"It took me a little while to figure out, OK, I need to take care of
myself as a person first, then as an athlete. That was one of the
biggest challenges for me.
"I just hope that there's someone who's going through a tough time
that can take inspiration from my journey, feel like maybe they can turn
it into something really positive the way I hope I have."