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

Carla Suarez Navarro has explained how the thought of playing one last match at Roland Garros kept her going as she battled against cancer; the Spaniard, who was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma, was given the all-clear in April

Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain celebrates in their ladies first round match against Sloane Stephens of The United States during day three of the 2021 French Open at Roland Garros on June 01, 2021 in Paris, France. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Image: Carla Suarez Navarro was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in September

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.

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.

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Spain's Carla Suarez Navarro plays a return to United States's Sloane Stephens during their first round match on day three of the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, Tuesday, June 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
Image: Suarez Navarro was unable to pull off a fairytale comeback against Sloane Stephens

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."

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."

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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