Emma Navarro didn’t get the top prize in the Junior French Open, but the consolation prize isn’t too bad for an 18-year-old from Charleston.
How does it feel to be a Junior Grand Slam doubles champion?
That’s what Navarro and partner Chloe Beck are after winning a pair of matches on Saturday in Paris at famed Roland Garris to capture the Junior French Open doubles championship.
Navarro failed in her bid to sweep singles and doubles titles, falling in the singles final to top seed Leylah Fernandez of Montreal 6-2, 6-2.
“If you told me I would be a Grand Slam doubles champion and singles finalist two years ago, I probably would not have believed you,” Navarro said. “It’s hard to believe that I now have those accomplishments under my belt.
“I’m super happy with today’s (doubles) win and even about my singles match, even though it didn’t go my way today, it was a tough match and very well fought by my opponent.”
After completing an interrupted semifinal doubles victory following Navarro’s singles final, Beck and Navarro needed only 53 minutes to wrap up a Junior Grand Slam title. They overwhelmed No. 4 seeds Alina Charaeva and Anastasia Tikhonova of Russia 6-1, 6-2 in the final.
“What a week,” said Peter Ayers, Navarro’s coach. “The match with Fernandez was tough. I know it is a cliche, but the match was much more closely contested than the final score line.
“In the end, Fernandez played a terrific match and earned the title. Emma lost the match today, but I am sure she leaves Paris with no regrets.”
In the all-important first set, Navarro held break points or served with an ad in five of the six games that Fernandez won.
As a result of her busy week in Paris, Navarro is projected to climb approximately 10-12 spots from her current No. 16 ranking among world juniors.
There was no time for regrets after singles. It was on to doubles for a weary Navarro, who for the third straight day competed in three matches.
A quick and mobile left-hander with excellent ground strokes, Fernandez was energetic and confident from the first point, while No. 8 seed Navarro appeared to be a little sluggish, perhaps from so many hours on the court the last few days.
Navarro appeared to be a step slower than normal, particularly moving forward inside the court on the low shots delivered by Fernandez.
The 16-year-old Fernandez controlled play with her forehand and covered the court like a blanket. She had a deadly drop shot that kept Navarro on the baseline. In short, Fernandez had the perfect game for the red clay. She was a juniors semifinalist at Roland Garris in 2018.
Navarro had her chances but converted only two break points in 10 attempts. Fernandez made good on five of the eight break points she had.
In the semifinal doubles match that was continued from Friday’s rain interruption, it took a 32-point match tiebreaker third set for Navarro and Beck to advance to their second straight Junior Grand Slam doubles final.
The last time the Beck/Navarro pair had faced Adrienn Nagy of Hungary was January’s Junior Australian Open doubles final, and Nagy came out ahead that time. But this time, Beck and Navarro pulled out a 6-3, 3-6, 17-15 victory, making good on the eighth match point to outlast No. 7 seeds Nagy and Sohyun Park of Korea.
“Bouncing back in the doubles was special,” Ayers said. “Honestly, they (Beck and Navarro) were lucky to get through the semifinal. I am so proud of the mindset Emma and Chloe brought to the final.
“It was as complete a match as I have seen the girls play. Tennis can be funny like that. Players escape a close match and then flourish in the next one. To do it on this stage was spectacular. ”
Beck is a 17-year-old from Watkinsville, Ga, who trains part-time at Randy Pate Tennis Academy at LTP Tennis in Mount Pleasant. She is headed to Duke to play tennis in the fall. Navarro is a rising senior at Ashley Hall School who plans to wait until 2020 to enroll at Duke.
Between them, Beck in doubles, and Navarro in singles and doubles, they have won numerous titles, including this year’s Easter Bowl singles and doubles, last summer’s girls 18 national clay courts singles and doubles, and doubles in a $15K ITF event at LTP Tennis.
For Charleston tennis to get on the Junior Grand Slam map was a major achievement, particularly satisfying to one leader in local tennis, Ben Navarro, the owner of the Volvo Car Open. He also is the proud father of Emma Navarro.
“It is every parent’s dream to see their child excel at the highest level at something they love. Today my dream came true,” said Ben Navarro, who watched every match his daughter played in Paris.
Bob Moran, the VCO tournament director and a long-time observer of local junior tennis, said, “An amazing achievement. I’m very proud of both young women. They made Charleston proud.”
Of course, Beck and Navarro scored their first WTA Tour doubles victory in this spring’s VCO, beating a recent French Open singles champion, Jelena Ostapenko, in the process.