Tue May 24 08:00am EDT
Virginie Razzano lost her first-round match Tuesday at the French Open, which was hardly the point. The 28-year-old Frenchwoman was playing eight days after the death of her fiance. She competed as a tribute to her partner and coach, Stephane Vidal, who had battled cancer for nine years.
Before he died, Vidal told Razzano to play the French Open.
A grieving Razzano wore a black ribbon for Vidal, a gesture adopted by all the French women in the field at the year's second major. She lost the match to Jarmila Gajdosova, 6-3, 6-1.
"I felt a lot of emotion, a lot of pain on court today," Razzano said. "The pain is permanent within me. But it felt good to be surrounded by so many people and to be here."
Gajdosova, the No. 24 seed, was playing with a different sort of emotions in the match. The 24-year-old split up from her husband of two years, Sam Groth, three weeks ago. Her comments after the match could have applied to her opponent as well.
"I can only try to cope as best I can," Gajdosova said. "I have good people around me and they have helped. Time will heal and I'll move forward."
After the match, the two women embraced at the net as the crowd at Court Phillippe Chatrier warmly applauded. "I told her I was sorry for her loss and that she was incredible to come on court," Gajdosova said. "I told her to hold her head high and wished her the best for the future."
Update: A full transcript of Razzano's statement was recently released. It's both heartbreaking and triumphant and certainly worth reading in full. Razzano was responding to a question about how she summoned the strength to play on Tuesday:
It's painful. It's hard. If I did it, it's for Stéphane. But also for me, because what he wanted, he wanted me to play. He wanted me to continue to go on with my life, even if in these very painful circumstances, very difficult circumstances.
But he has faith in me. He knows I have this strength that he also had, and this is also why we worked so well together. We had courage. We fought together day after day. And if I played today, it's because I had to do it, and this well, there is no word. It was as if it was something written. I grabbed all my courage. I don't have much. I'm very fragile. I feel lonely, and even though there are many people around me supporting me, but I still have the strength in me that keeps me standing up and moving on step by step.
I'm mourning right now, and it's difficult, especially when you lose someone, someone who was, I'm sorry, who was, who will forever be the man of my life whom I love and will always love. I have beautiful memories in good times and not so good times. And that's a history that's alive; that we built together for 11 years.
And I'll continue to build through my sport, through my passion, tennis. That gives me strength. That gives me courage and mental strength.
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