Rafael Nadal led a chorus of ATP stars celebrating the emotional return of Carla Suarez Navarro from her battle with cancer at Roland Garros on Tuesday.
The Spaniard returned to Roland Garros to take on Sloane Stephens. She came within two points of taking the match in straight sets before the American rallied to win 3-6, 7-6(4), 6-4. But it was a gutsy fight befitting her courageous return to the court.
Nadal was among myriad players delighted to see the 32-year-old back on tour. “I just want to congratulate you for the attitude and everything that you have transmitted during these complicated months. You are a champion,” Nadal said. “You were already one on court, but now you showed us that you’re also one away from the court, and I just wanted to congratulate you and tell you that I’m very, very happy for your recovery. I send you a big kiss and congratulations.”
Along with 13-time Roland Garros champion Nadal, Top 10 players Daniil Medvedev and Alexander Zverev were among those who sent out messages of encouragement.
“Carla you were always fighting on the court and I think you got the win in your biggest fight, it is really inspiring and I hope you come back even stronger on the tour, win some tournaments. We are all with you, it is amazing,” Medvedev said.
Zverev added: “Carla, welcome back, we all missed you and we are all incredibly proud of you for dealing with what you had. It is amazing how much of a fighter you are. You showed it on the court all the time but now you have shown it in life as well so we are all proud of you and we are extremely happy to have you back and will be cheering for you this week.”
Suarez Navarro announced that she had been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of blood cancer, last summer. But she has returned to the sport just five weeks after revealing she had recovered.
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Matteo Berrettini, the World No. 9 was another who shared his thoughts about the good news. “So nice to see you back. We’ve been texting and I actually met you here, so I am really happy that you are here practising and fighting. You have been an inspiration to all of us.”
Diego Schwartzman further echoed this, saying: “I am very, very happy to see you again here. When I saw you a few days ago we shared the smiles because we are friends outside the court, so I am very happy. You are a girl that many people have to follow and have to know how hard you fight to be here again. I hope to see you soon, competing on court at the max level.”
Dominic Thiem, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Denis Shapovalov also sent their support, with #NextGenATP talent Carlos Alcaraz telling his fellow Spaniard: “I just want to tell you that for me and for all the Spanish people it’s a pride to see you back on the courts. To have overcome everything you have gone through, it is really incredible. We wish you all the best on your comeback.”