With her words, Ashleigh Barty honored her opponent, Carla Suárez Navarro, who was playing in her 11th and final Wimbledon following cancer treatment last year. With her outfit, she paid tribute to the kit worn by Evonne Goolagong Crawley, 50 years after the Australian’s first Wimbledon title. And with each fascinating winner in the final set, the world number one suggested that she had recovered from a hip injury that forced her to withdraw from the French Open, and that she might be poised for a long run in the next fortnight.
It is true that there was a problem in the second set, which Barty lost in a tie-break after serving for the match 5-4. But given the quality of her opponent, and the pressure of opening her tournament on center court, the Australian was very happy to have passed 6-1, 6-7 (1), 6-1.
Above all, however, I wanted to pay tribute to Suárez Navarro, a former world No. 6 who underwent eight chemotherapy sessions after being diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma last year. “She is a great competitor, a great fighter,” Barty said. “It was a privilege to be able to share that moment, to share that court with her. She hadn’t had a chance to play Carla. It was really special to be able to experience what she can bring from the other side of the court.
“I think all the credit goes to her for her endurance and her nature as a competitor, being able to come back from the adversity she has and being able to have that moment with her was nothing shy or extraordinary.”
After the game, when the Wimbledon crowd gave the Spaniard a standing ovation, Barty joined in the applause. “I just said, ‘It was a pleasure to share the pitch with you.’ She is an exceptional person, a great fighter, a great competitor and much loved and respected in the dressing room. She is going to be deeply missed. “
Barty has been a poor performer at Wimbledon, never getting past the fourth round in four previous attempts. She also knows that Serena Williams and Coco Gauff are lurking in her half of the draw. But her play in the final set, with 11 winners and only two unforced errors, has cheered her up. “Overall, I’m happy to start here at Wimbledon and play that really solid match. It was a great battle. “
Suárez Navarro, who was playing at Wimbledon in a special classification of 68, where he was when he began his cancer treatment last year, said he had savored the experience despite his loss. “I think I played a very good game,” he said. “I was enjoying the game. I am trying to do my best. I know what I have to do to win the game, but my body is not the same as it was two years ago. When I spend time on the court, I feel tired. “
It is not surprising that Suárez Navarro’s mother, María, had tears in her eyes when her daughter left court. “This is the second or third time he has come to Wimbledon,” he told reporters. But she is always the same. She films everything. He takes photos for everything, for everyone. She was by my side all this time, all these months. “
In his career, Suárez Navarro has reached seven grand slam singles quarter-finals, as well as doubles quarter-finals and semi-finals. Although he has never made it past the fourth round at Wimbledon, he said the venue had always held a special place in his heart. “This is one of the most beautiful tournaments of the year. Whenever I return, I am very happy to be here. Everything is so beautiful. “
He also had the feeling that his treatment had given him a broader perspective. “I really enjoy everything that happened. I am going to play my last tournament at the US Open. Then I finish my career. But I think that now, today, I am the happiest player in the tournament, for sure ”.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism