Ashleigh Barty withstood a heroic second set fightback to beat Carla Suarez Navarro 6-1 6-7 (1-7) 6-1 and advance into the second round at Wimbledon.
On an emotional afternoon, Saurez Navarro was playing what may well be her final ever match at the tournament on a ‘farewell tour’ after her recovery from cancer.
The Spaniard had initially planned to retire in 2020 before being diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma in the summer of last year.
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After treatment and recovery, the 32-year-old Spaniard decided to return to the tour, pushing back her retirement by 12 months.
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- Barty survives second set fightback against Suarez Navarro to reach second round
Tasked with a tough draw against the No 1 seed, a break in play due to rain at the start of the match seemed to favour Barty who took an early break to go 3-1 up after the players resumed.
Showing no signs of the hip injury that saw her withdraw from Roland Garros last month, the Australian raced away with the first set, wrapping it up in just 25 minutes.
Four-time quarter-finalist Suarez Navarro stepped it up in the second set and tried to make full use of her trademark single arm backhand to keep Barty on her toes.
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The match stayed on serve until game nine, when Barty converted a third break point when her opponent could only find the net with another backhand.
However, Suarez Navarro broke back immediately and then held to love, putting the pressure back on Barty, who had to hold to level the match 6-6.
The Spaniard powered through the subsequent tie-break, dropping just one point as she took the second set in style.
But thoughts of an upset swiftly passed in the decider as Barty raced into a 3-0 lead without dropping a point.
Ahead of what was to be her final service game at 0-5 down, Suarez Navarro received a wonderful ovation from the Wimbledon crowd and responded with to get on the board.
But leaving the Australian to serve for the match, Barty was able to take full advantage seeing out the game to love.
Speaking afterwards, Barty paid tribute to her beaten opponent: "To be able to share the court with [Carla] was incredible. She's a genuine champion and she's going to be very sorely missed."
She now faces Anna Blinkova or Timea Babos in round two.
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