BarcelonaUnder the mask you can sense a smile from ear to ear. Neither the difficulties, nor the farewell to the slopes, nor even an illness have managed to rob Carla Suárez of her joy (Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, 1988). The tennis player, who has been based in Catalonia for years, attends to ARA to remember how she has lived a last year that has changed her life, how she faces life once her retirement from professional tennis materializes and what they are his new strengths after overcoming Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
The first question is mandatory. How do you feel?
– I’m fine physically and I’m very calm.
You have received the Woman Sport award for overcoming. What does being a reference mean to you?
– Throughout my career I have had to go through delicate moments, but it is true that last year with covid and illness I lived through really difficult times. It’s a pride for them to think of me after so many years of career, of everything that has happened. It makes me feel very proud, as I think there are so many women who could give it to me.
2020 has been one of the hardest years of your life. Now that you’ve finished your career as a tennis player, how do you feel?
– Last year everything went awry and suddenly it changed the lives of us all. The pandemic affected us all and then, when it seemed like things were back to normal, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It stopped all of a sudden and I was aware that all the plans I had in my head I couldn’t make them the way I wanted or with the same times I wanted. I accepted it very naturally. These are things that happen in everyday life, there are many families affected and I decided to face it with optimism. Luckily, everything went very well and very quickly. I had some sports goals in my head that I was able to accomplish. I competed at Roland Garros, at Wimbledon, at the Tokyo Olympics and enjoyed it like never before. It has been a farewell that I myself could not imagine.
Has the discipline of sport helped you feel strong in these turbulent times?
– Totally. Sport helps you be strong and even tennis more. It is an individual sport, in which you are alone on the track and you have to make the decisions yourself. This makes you very strong. I think it benefited me a lot because in the end it was one more fight, another battle. I was used to suffering, on a sporting level, so it wasn’t particularly different. Obviously there are hard times, of weakness, but there was no choice but to move on. The days went by and luckily it was only four months that passed relatively quickly.
Your goal during treatment was to get back on track. How was the time to step back on the beaten earth?
– It cost me. The body was not the same and did not react in the same way as before the disease. I got tired really fast, it was like starting all over again because you lose all your fitness. He intended to return, but it is true that he did not want to return anyway. I wanted to be at a certain level and I had to put in a lot of effort. In fact, until two weeks before the tournament I didn’t know if I could compete. I didn’t see it at all clearly and my companions helped me a lot and gave me strength. It was so special … Everything was different and with words it is difficult to describe what I felt. The personal overcoming that I set myself I achieved and it is something that liberates.
One of the companies that has given you the most support in this process is Garbiñe Muguruza.
– It helped me a lot during the illness. He was one of the first people I told I had to stop for a while without knowing if I could get back on track. We were excited to be able to play together one last time and we talked a lot about the Tokyo Olympics. The day we lost was hard for all that it entailed. We had a match ball, we knew it was the last time we would play together, we lost the experience of being able to win a medal … We knew it was difficult, but we saw it so close … You always have the illusion and more knowing that our paths would part a little and we would see each other less than we used to. That day exploded everything.
What is different about today’s Carla from a year ago?
– Carla from two years ago made plans or set long-term goals and the current one enjoys much more the day to day and lives more the present. I think here is the key. There are things I valued before, I didn’t have to be sick to value them. The most important thing and what I have changed the most is to live the present and enjoy the road, and I consider that I have been able to do enough sportingly [riu].
How is Carla Suárez without tennis?
– Luckily I was very lucky to mentalize and change the daily routine I had. I’m very calm because I had to say goodbye to the tracks in 2020 and it all happened and I postponed it until this year. I didn’t want people to remember me for an illness or in a hospital bed. I am very calm because tennis has given me so much more than I would have imagined. I am very happy to start a very different stage.
Are you mentally stronger?
– After the last tournament I emptied myself and noticed a release. It took me a while to re-engage a bit, as it was hard for me to start over from scratch. Now, once I’m done, to disconnect and rest, my head needs it.