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:
An inspiration to all, @CarlaSuarezNava
Thanks for the memories…#RolandGarros
— Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) June 2, 2021
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) June 1, 2021
It’s great to see Carla Suarez Navarro on a tennis court again.
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) June 1, 2021
The beautiful comeback of Carla Suarez Navarro
A year and 3 months after her last match and she recovered from cancer, CSN has fought 2h30 to finally lose to Sloane Stephens (3-6 7-6 6-4). Hats off.
— We Are Tennis (@WeAreTennis) June 1, 2021
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 pic.twitter.com/s3IxPNJ9rr
— sloanestephens (@SloaneStephens) June 1, 2021
I would have posted it anyway.
Carla Suarez Navarro, ‘Comeback Of The Year’ award 2021. pic.twitter.com/AGQ50SanAL
— Diego Barbiani (@Diego_Barbiani) June 1, 2021
Carla Suarez Navarro is back on the tennis court!
She begins an emotional final #FrenchOpen campaign, less than a year after she was diagnosed with cancer & undergoing chemotherapy
Up against Sloane Stephens, hoping she gets a win. https://t.co/t3mD7fd34n
— ZENIA D’CUNHA (@ZENIADCUNHA) June 1, 2021
This should be the real story of a hero at @rolandgarros … @CarlaSuarezNava had not played a Tennis match in 18 months (bravely fighting cancer). Came back today and took a slam winner the distance in a 2.5 hour physical battle. What guts, courage, heart and dedication. https://t.co/DtQ8x4Q1eM
— Pavvy G (@pavyg) June 1, 2021
To see your backhand back in action @CarlaSuarezNava is real privilege . Missed watching that beautiful swing https://t.co/ORBkUFjkzM
— Sergiy Stakhovsky (@Stako_tennis) June 1, 2021
Carla Suarez Navarro deserved to have fans applauding her off the court at the end of that match. That was an inspirational fight from her. What a story.
— Vinayakk (@vinayakkm) June 1, 2021
— Atinuke Yewande Esan (@EsanAtinuke124) June 1, 2021
Please add Carlos Suarez Navarro!! What a great come back story, will inspire so many people. https://t.co/xqKZQG1PrS
— Mask up and take your vaccine (@ashwinravi99) June 1, 2021
Carla Suarez Navarro – one of the most humble and respected competitors out there.
Ends her career at #RolandGarros with a valiant three-set loss to Sloane Stephens.
— Nick McCarvel (@NickMcCarvel) June 1, 2021
Carla Suarez Navarro is already a winner just because she is healthy again and able to play tennis… but she just won the first set against Stephens.
— Matt Zemek (@mzemek) June 1, 2021
Fought all the way until the end
— wta (@WTA) June 1, 2021
— Paul Henri Mathieu (@PHMofficiel) June 1, 2021
I’m not crying, you’re crying.
The #RolandGarros career of Carla Suarez Navarro is over. She announced a few weeks ago that she was in remission from cancer, and has just performed valiantly and brilliantly, but gone down in 3 sets to Sloane Stephens.
— The Tennis Podcast (@TennisPodcast) June 1, 2021
That was just remarkable from Carla Suarez Navarro after all she has been through. All class from Sloane Stephens at the net https://t.co/0UhvEqHupb
— Christopher Clarey (@christophclarey) June 1, 2021
Gutted to see Carla go out but she does in the only way she knows to: having put up a fight until the last ball. It still makes me so happy that she’s back. #RolandGarros
— AndrewMc’ (@CheapAbyss) June 1, 2021
Roland Garros putting Carla Suarez Navarro’s last ever match on at a time when fans could not attend – and then not doing a ceremony on court after – is just the latest blunder in what has been a tournament full of them. #RG21 #RolandGarros
— Andrew Brydges (@ambrydges) June 1, 2021
How does Carla Suarez Navarro get put as a night match when there is a curfew… she deserves a full crowd there to give her a standing ovation. This makes me sad
— Ellen Perez (@EllenPerez95) June 1, 2021
(With AFP inputs)