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‘Proud’ Suarez Navarro loses first match back after cancer recovery at French Open

A “proud” Carla 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 9pm 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.”

Stephens, a former US Open champion, will face ninth seed Karolina Pliskova in the second round.

“Obviously she’s been through a lot and we’re all happy that she’s better and healthy and being able to play again, which I think obviously is the most important thing,” said American Stephens.

“I think that was nice to see her, nice to see a familiar face after the pandemic and everything she’s been through.”

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