French Open: Cancer survivor Carla Suarez Navarro wanted to play at Roland Garros ‘one last time’ before retirement

Carla Suarez Navarro says she has “received a lot of love” from her fellow professionals at Roland Garros following her return to the court after successful cancer treatment.

Her inspiring comeback ended with a 3-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 defeat by Sloane Stephens in the opening round at the French Open on Tuesday.

It was the 32-year-old’s first match since Doha last February, with Suarez Navarro revealing in September that she had been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

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The Spaniard had initially planned to retire at the end of 2020 but, with the coronavirus pandemic halting the tour and then her off-court battle, she decided to continue for another season.

She announced in April she had completed her treatment and been given the all clear, and immediately set about preparing for her return to Grand Slam action.

For a long time it looked like being a winning return, with Suarez Navarro winning the opening set and serving for the match at 5-4 in the second. But Stephens, a former finalist at Roland Garros, found her form when she needed to and battled to victory.

The big disappointment was that Paris’ 9pm curfew meant Suarez Navarro made her farewell to an empty Court Philippe Chatrier, with Stephens clapping her off court.

Suarez Navarro said: “It was a long time, really tough moments. Tough months. But every time I had on my mind that I want to be here, I want to come back. Roland Garros is one of my favourite tournaments, so I had it really clear that my first tournament will be this one.

“Then I tried to prepare myself for my best tennis that I can. Obviously I need more time, but I had a good time this week practising, I had a good level in my match.

“Of course I felt tired at the end. I knew that if I don’t close the match in two sets, it will be so difficult for me. But I’m really proud, too, of myself and really happy to have the chance to play here one last time.”

Carla I’m so happy to have shared court with you and see you healthy with us in Paris!! You’re an inspiration and we’re all just so glad to have you back on tour again. Welcome home ❤️

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Suarez Navarro had not played a tournament since Doha last February, but she said she had received lots of support from fellow players in the locker room: “I’m really happy to be here again with all of them. Yeah. I receive a lot of love from them.”

Incredible! @CarlaSuarezNava We all give you a standing ovation! Thank you for your inspiration & fight! Honored to have lost to you…twice…at Roland Garros ??

She added: “Until March 1 of this year, I could not practise full. I started to play with soft balls, I started to play for 20 minutes. Then every day I’m going better. I played a little bit more.

“Of course it was tough. My body felt a lot of change in those months. But I did everything that I could to be here.”

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