Having your parents involved in your sports affairs can feel overbearing at times. Imagine if you were an athlete and your parents owned the stadium in which you performed? Emma Navarro can.
The 19-year-old tennis sensation from Charleston has been named one of the five main draw wild cards in the field of 56 players at the Volvo Car Open. Navarro also happens to be the daughter of well-known Charleston philanthropist and billionaire Ben Navarro, and Kelly Navarro.
Emma Navarro is too new on the scene to be labeled as a tournament darling or a household name, like her peer and competitor Daniel Island native Shelby Rogers. However, her reputation precedes her because her family quite literally owns the tennis venue.
In September 2018, the Navarros bought Charleston Tennis LLC, granting them the ownership rights to the tournament, the Family Circle Tennis Center and the Volvo Car Stadium. The couple’s most recent investment came in the form of a near $40 million gift to the City of Charleston for renovations to the Volvo Car Stadium, which is anticipated to be complete by March 2022.
Navarro is also the granddaughter of former college football player and coach Frank Navarro. Off the field, Frank is famous for posing for the Norman Rockwell painting “The Recruit.”
Although she hails from a family of fortune and fame, Navarro is in nobody’s shadow. Especially when she’s inside the lines on a tennis court.
Navarro’s young resume with a racket speaks for itself and has allowed her to pave a way for her own legacy. However, she credits her father as her source of inspiration for the sport.
“My dad has always been my No. 1 fan and supporter,” Navarro said. “I’ve been so appreciative for everything he’s done for me in pursuing tennis.”
While attending Ashley Hall High School, Navarro was rated the No. 1 tennis recruit in the nation. In 2018, she won the 18 singles and doubles titles at the USTA National Clay Court Championships.
The following year, she finished the season ranked the No. 3 junior player in the world. A list of highlights include: a semifinals finish at the 2019 Junior Wimbledon Championships, a finals berth at the 2019 French Open Junior Championships, singles title at the
2019 Adidas Easter Bowl, first in the 2019 Junior French Open Doubles Championship, and runner-up in the 2019 Junior Australian Open Championship.
Navarro made her Women’s Tennis Association debut before she ever stepped on a college court. In 2019, she received wild cards for the singles and doubles main draws in the Volvo Car Open.
As a child, Navarro remembered going to watch the tournament every year with her siblings. She would always buy the giant lemonades at the concession stands and then just watch tennis all day.
“I would always picture myself playing in the stadium and since I was a young kid, that was always a dream of mine,” Navarro said.
In her first and only appearance in the Volvo Car Open, at 17, Navarro lost to Laura Siegemund of Germany in the Round of 64. However, she still walked away with $2,595 worth of prize money for the week. Solid pay for a high school student.
After getting a glimmer of the pro circuit, Navarro remained steadfast about her collegiate decision and committed to the University of Virginia in the fall of 2020. She is currently a freshman who is ranked No. 6 by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association and is undefeated in conference play.
“I had always planned on going to college,” Navarro continued. “School has always been a big priority of mine, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to play for a school like UVA.”
This year’s VCO is Navarro’s second time competing in the event. Ranked No. 648 in the world, she is one of the youngest players in the field behind 17-year-old Coco Gauff, who is making her VCO debut.
There will be no fans due to COVID-19 but the world will be watching, including her dearest fans, her parents.
“There’s nothing like playing at home against the best players in the world at a tournament that you’ve grown up watching,” Navarro added.
Favorite athlete: Roger Federer. He’s so classy and plays such a graceful and elegant, but also intense and aggressive game.
• Favorite hobby? I love to do anything outdoorsy. I love to hike and bike and be out on the water. My favorite thing to do on the water is wakeboard.
• Favorite place to eat on Daniel Island? I love Beech. It’s a little acai bowl shop on the island that makes killer bowls and smoothies.
• Favorite place to hang out on Daniel Island? My Uncle Ed’s house.