We are just at the end of the first round at Roland Garros but the award for the comeback of the tournament could already be a closed deal. Sure, we might see players fight back from the brink after a set or two down to win the match but nothing might quite match what Carla Suarez Navarro achieved on Tuesday night, even in defeat.
A “proud” Suarez Navarro came close to winning her first match back after recovering from cancer at the French Open on Tuesday, but bowed out in the first round with defeat by Sloane Stephens.
The Spaniard, a former world number six and two-time quarter-finalist in Paris, was told in September 2020 that she was suffering with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
But almost nine months later, Suarez Navarro is back after recovering following eight chemotherapy and 15 radiotherapy sessions.
Roland Garros was the first step of a farewell tour before retirement which will also take in Wimbledon, the US Open and possibly the Olympics in Tokyo.
The 32-year-old served for the match against 2018 runner-up Stephens on Tuesday, but eventually lost 3-6, 7-6 (7/4), 6-4 after two hours and 24 minutes on Court Simonne Mathieu.
“Of course I feel tired at the end. I know that if I don’t close the match in two sets, it will be so difficult for me,” said Suarez Navarro.
“But I’m really proud, too, of myself and really happy to have the chance to play here one last time.”
Despite not having played on tour for so long, Suarez Navarro was disappointed not to reach the second round and said she struggled after the crowds had to leave during the second set due to the French government-enforced 9 pm curfew.
“I have a little bit of crowd, and I really enjoy. But then I was so sad when they have to leave,” she said.
“Well, it was difficult. I thought about that yesterday when I (saw I) was fourth match in that court, sometimes it can happen.
“But, well, after the match, I’m not happy with the result. I have 5-4, my serve, and then tie-break to close the match. But, maybe with the time I see this different but now I’m not too happy. I was here to win that match.”
However, despite the loss, her remarkable comeback left many inspired. Here are some reactions:
(With AFP inputs)