For a time, the fairytale looked a distinct possibility for Carla Suarez Navarro.
Recovered after six months of chemotherapy combatting Hogkin’s lymphoma, the Spaniard put real pressure on world No1 and Ash Barty in forcing the tournament favourite to a deciding set on Centre Court on Tuesday.
But on Navarro’s Wimbledon farewell in her farewell season, it was not quite to be as Barty turned the screw late on for a 6-1 6-7 6-1 victory.
“It was just incredible to be able to share the court with Carla after her incredible career,” she said. “You can’t find one bad word to say about her. She’s an incredible person. She’ll be very sorely missed.”
The soon-to-be-retired 32-year-old had planned to bow out at the end of the 2020 season but her cancer diagnosis, which forced her to miss last year’s US Open, combined with the pandemic persuaded her for one final season.
She came within a whisker of a big win against Sloane Stephens at the preceding French Open and had the prospect of an even bigger scalp in Barty.
Having been totally outplayed in the opening set, she kept Barty within reach for much of the second set, breaking back after losing a service game to force a tiebreak.
She dominated that 7-1 much to the delight of mother Maria seemingly taking photos of every moment for posterity’s sake.
The second-set break seemed to enable Barty to reset while, for Navarro, the energy levels seemed to rapidly erode and there was only going to be one winner.