With the experience of 50 Fed Cup ties, Catalina Castano has been through many battles. Now, at the age of 35, the Colombian must face what she describes as ‘the toughest match’ of her life.
After health concerns during tournaments in Brazil earlier this year, Castano travelled home and visited her doctor for an ultrasound scan. The results confirmed her concerns: Castano had breast cancer.
“It was really hard to hear the news. I didn’t know what to do or where to go. I cried for several days, hiding from my parents and sisters,” said Castano.
After coming to terms with the diagnosis, it was not long before Castano started fighting back. “I decided to do what the doctors recommended which was chemotherapy as quickly as possible. Tennis taught me to be a warrior and to fight until the last point and that is how I’m battling daily.”
The former world No. 35, who helped her nation achieve a third place finish in Americas Group I in February this year, has now retired from the sport.
“I am no longer a tennis player; my strength is now focussed on my general wellness. I don’t think I’d have the strength to go back to training sessions, to travel or to play tournaments,” she said.
Playing tennis may not be on Castano’s mind now, but the response from the tennis family fills her with positive energy after recently undergoing her fifth session of chemotherapy.
“It has been impressive, I have received many kind and sweet messages and it makes me very happy to see people who I shared many moments with caring about me.”
Castano first appeared on the Fed Cup scene in 1996 as a 16-year-old against Chile. The immense sense of pride in wearing the yellow, blue and red of Colombia is something that she still holds dearly.
“I felt amazing, that’s why I played so many times; to get that feeling of playing for my country. I love my country,” said the Colombian.
With the most ties played, years played and match wins in Colombia’s Fed Cup history, it is clear that there was always something special for Castano when it came to the competition.
When asked what set the competition apart from regular events, it is clear to see her passion: “Everything. The pressure you are dealing with, the support of a team, it is something we usually don’t have on the circuit; the bond you create with others.”
Castano knows the importance of taking things step by step but still holds many hopes for the future.
“I live day by day because with cancer you never know when everything suddenly ends. I hope to recover as soon as possible and from there I will see what I’ll do. For sure something related to tennis because tennis is my passion,” she explained.
There is still possibility for another chapter in Castano's love affair with Fed Cup. The idea of returning as a coach is something which the Colombian is happy to entertain; “I would love to share my experience with young players making their first steps in this competition. Fed Cup was one of the events I played the most and enjoyed like no other.”
Her playing days may be over but Castano enjoyed her career. With great memories and numerous records in Colombian tennis history, Castano reflects: “I gave the best of myself.”