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Remember The Name: Rising Emma Navarro’s Magic Is Built To Last
3 Min Read · March 13, 2024

The former NCAA champ pulled the upset of the tournament on the women’s side to reach the quarterfinals. 

Emma Navarro slashed her way across the court, running zigzags, chasing down lobs and skidding to a stop in the forecourt in one of the best points of the tournament during Wednesday’s colossal 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 upset of No.2-seeded Aryna Sabalenka at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. 

Then the crowd went nuts. 

The former NCAA champion may not be a household name – yet – but that didn’t keep the faithful inside Stadium 1 from appreciating her gritty, electrifying brand of tennis. 

Win or lose, that’s the type of effort fans can expect from the rising World No. 23. 

“I love to scramble,” she told reporters after her win, a black baseball cap pulled tight around her head during her post-match press conference. “I love to get scrappy, as my coach says. It's one of the things that I love the most about the game, that cat-and-mouse aspect of playing.” 

If you haven’t already watched the 22-year-old ply her trade, you’re in luck: Navarro will face either Maria Sakkari or Diane Parry in her first 1000-level quarterfinal at Indian Wells on Thursday. 

“Another challenge,” said Navarro. “Obviously I want to enjoy the win today, but I'm just really excited to survive another day and get to come out and play another match tomorrow – this is why I play.” 

She may seem a quick study, but Navarro’s success hasn’t happened out of the blue. A 2021 NCAA women’s singles champion at the University of Virginia, Navarro was ticketed for the pros long before that. In fact, she won the prestigious Easter Bowl title as a junior in both the 16s and the 18s right here in Tennis Paradise in 2017 and 2019. 

But making the transition from juniors to pros hasn’t come easy. Bred as a counterpuncher, Navarro had to learn to take the initiative in points. 

“When I was younger, I played in a way where I wanted to work myself into points and work myself into matches and kind of just react to what my opponent was doing, kind of take a step back and see, ‘okay, how are they going to play?’” she said, adding: “at this level, there's no time for that, and there's not an opportunity for that. You are either striking or you're getting struck. I'd rather do the former.” 

Navarro had never finished a season inside the WTA’s Top 100 prior to last season, and she had never claimed a WTA title prior to January, when she lifted the trophy in Hobart. 

Winning 18 matches thus far in 2024, Navarro is now slated to make her Top 20 debut next week. There’ll be no more hiding under the radar for her. 

Admittedly reserved, Navarro says she’s becoming accustomed to playing with more eyeballs on her. 

“I would say it's a little bit unnatural for me to be in the spotlight and be playing on a court like that with a ton of fans and TVs and eyes on me,” she said. “It's not my natural way.” 

But Navarro knows she’ll have no choice in the matter so accepts her new challenge with open arms. She’s even working on a rite of passage for all top pros –  breaking out a trademark fist-pump to get the crowd working for her. Fans witnessed one today during a critical point of her electric takedown of Sabalenka, this year’s Australian Open champion. 

“I think maybe that was my second or third fist pump ever. If it was a little weird, cut me some slack,” she said, as the room broke out in laughter. 

Navarro says she plays her best when things are “quiet in her head.” She’ll have to block out the noise when she contests her quarterfinal at the BNP Paribas Open. That’s just fine with her – her desire to compete far outweighs any inhibitions she may be working through. 

Now that she’s completed the biggest win of her career, Navarro prefers to focus on the next one, rather than the noise. 

“It's awesome to beat a player like [Sabalenka], but as I said, it's kind of, What's next? Yeah, I'm excited to play again.”

Emma Navarro is into her maiden quarterfinal at Indian Wells, and isn't done yet.
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