Spanish player, 32, plays again at French Open after cancer

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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)

PARIS – Carla Suárez Navarro was pleased, of course, to be back on a tennis court at the French Open on Tuesday night after being treated for cancer, competing for the first time in nearly 1 1/2 years.

And not just at any tournament, but her favorite one. Still, the 32-year-old from Spain made clear that she was not pleased with the result. Because she didn't just want to be out there; she wanted to come out on the right end of the score.

“Maybe with time, I (will) see this different, but now I’m not too happy,” Suárez Navarro said. “I was here to win that match.”

Suárez Navarro returned to professional tennis following chemotherapy treatments for Hodgkin lymphoma and came close to victory before eventually being beaten 3-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4 by 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens in a first-round match at Court Simonne Mathieu.

When it ended after nearly 2 1/2 hours, Stephens embraced Suárez Navarro at the net.

“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 Stephens, who was the runner-up at Roland Garros in 2018. “We all love her and love having her around.”

Suárez Navarro was ranked as high as No. 6, won two WTA singles titles and reached the quarterfinals at Grand Slam tournaments seven times — twice in Paris.

But she had not played professionally since February 2020, making a promise to herself that she would make it back to play at the French Open.