Emma Navarro Stuns Again: A Victory Over Madison Keys in Roland Garros 2024

Emma Navarro, the rising star of U.S. tennis, continues to defy expectations with her recent win over Madison Keys.

The 23-year-old is making waves as she reaches the fourth round of a Grand Slam for the first time. “You’re either striking or you’re getting struck,” Navarro states, embracing her aggressive playstyle.

Emma Navarro Stuns Again: A Victory Over Madison Keys in Roland Garros 2024
Emma Navarro will take a swing at Aryna Sabalenka next, not Madison Keys. © Matt Fitzgerald

It’s safe to say that Emma Navarro has a knack for surprising folks these days. She’s good at surprising me, at the very least. Upon her initial appearance in major draws in the beginning of 2023, she didn’t seem to be the next big thing in American history.

She is a small 5’7″ in a women’s game when most players are above 6 feet tall these days. Second, even though she was the University of Virginia’s NCAA singles champion, success in the professional ranks has never been assured by such an achievement. For many years, it was considered a mark against a player simply because they attended college.

Third, she did not appear to have a reliable weapon that she could rely on for any one shot, not even her serve.

But now, a little over a year later, Navarro is ranked 24th in the world, 35-12 overall, and, on a surface that has traditionally plagued her compatriots, she is making her maiden appearance in the fourth round of a Grand Slam event. Madison Keys, who might have been the finest American tennis player going into Roland Garros, was defeated by the 23-year-old on Saturday, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3).

Navarro will now face Aryna Sabalenka, the second seed. I was anticipating a potential matchup between Sabalenka and Keys, two of the best sluggers in the WTA, when the event got underway. Navarro has taken me by surprise once more, not just with the victory over Keys but also with the manner in which it was achieved.

Also Read: Elina Avanesyan’s Victory over Zheng Qinwen in Roland Garros 2024 Thriller

Keys served again, high-kicking, and she won by racing forward and winning the ball on the rise. Her early misses were due to the riskiness of the ploy. But unlike some athletes, Navarro was unfazed by it. She persisted, and in the first set tiebreaker, it paid off as she struck two of those winners’ returns.

With her backhand drop stroke, she prevailed. Navarro hits it higher than, say, Novak Djokovic, but she still drops it close to the net because she carves it with feel and accuracy. This combination results in a shot that is difficult for her opponent to reach while remaining safe. When Navarro goes under the ball, she exudes confidence and executes the shot with vigor and ferocity, not only to close out a rally. It exudes a sense of eagerness.

As my coach puts it, “I love to get scrappy and scramble.” It’s among the aspects of the game that I enjoy the best. Simply that cat-and-mouse element of playing,” she remarks.

Emma Navarro Stuns Again: A Victory Over Madison Keys in Roland Garros 2024
"As my coach puts it, I love to get gritty and scramble. It's among the aspects of the game that I enjoy the most."—Emma Navarro. © Getty Images

She used a counterpunch to win. Even though Keys is one of the strongest hitters on both tours, Navarro was able to return the pace across the net and into the open court thanks to her superb timing. Navarro managed to tie Keys with thirty, but Keys ended up with forty winners.

She used her athletics to win. Navarro closed with a leaping overhead at one point. On another occasion, she used a running swing volley with a high degree of difficulty to cap off a rally late in the match. According to Navarro, making it to the pros has resulted in a “mindset shift.”

She stated earlier this spring, “When I was younger, I played in a way where I wanted to work myself into matches and points.” However, there isn’t time for that at this point. Either you’re striking or someone else is striking you. I prefer to carry out the former. “Merely, being at ease enough to initiate contact.”

And the last action. In this match, Navarro experienced ups and downs; she was broken four times and made almost as many mistakes as she did winners. However, in every tiebreaker, she was the more poised player. She won the first breaker 5–5, rallying for set point in the process. She sealed with an ace in the second breaker. Even though it was just her second of the day, it arrived at the ideal time.

Thus, Navarro will face Sabalenka next rather than Keys. This season, at Indian Wells, the South Carolina native has already defeated the world’s second-ranked player.

It’s clear that Navarro enjoys the tempo that Keys and Sabalenka provide. She has the ability to take anything and turn it into something more entertaining to see. On Monday, we’ll find out what surprises she has in store.

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