Hometown stars: Navarro builds momentum, Rogers gets first win at Miami after rehab

What a difference a year makes.
Last year at this time, Emma Navarro’s journey on the WTA Tour was about to shift into overdrive.
She was ranked World No. 122 and spent most of the year competing in ITF and WTA 125 events to refine and focus on her game in a less intense environment.
Today, Navarro is ranked World No. 20 after an incredibly impressive start to the 2024 season.
She is second on the WTA Tour with 21 victories in 2024, including her biggest triumph ever, an impressive and gritty victory over World No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 in a BNP Paribas Open Round of 16 match in Indian Wells.
“When I acknowledge my ranking right now compared to a year ago, it’s really crazy and seems really fast,” Navarro said on the WTA Insider Podcast during the Indian Wells tourney. “But then when I go out and hit or play a match, it doesn’t feel like anything’s happened that fast.”
While Navarro won her first WTA singles title in the Hobart International in Australia in January, it might be her performances on American soil this year that signaled her arrival as one of the top American stars.
She competed in two of the biggest tournaments on the WTA Tour in March.
She reached her first quarterfinal in a WTA 1000 event at Indian Wells, and followed it up with an appearance in the Round of 16 at the Miami Open, another WTA 1000 tourney leading up to the Credit One Charleston Open, which commences March 30.
In Miami, Navarro reached the Round of 16 and faced fellow American Jessica Pegula, who entered the Miami Open with a world ranking of No. 5, on March 25. Navarro seemed to have another upset in the making, taking a 4-1 first-set lead against Pegula. But Pegula flexed her muscle and pulled out a 7-6 (1) 6-3 victory.
Pegula and Navarro will be teammates on Team USA in the Billie Jean King Cup.
But before that high-profile event, both are scheduled to play at the Credit One Charleston Open.
Pegula, whose family owns the NFL Buffalo Bills and the NHL Buffalo Sabres, is impressed with Navarro’s physical and cerebral makeup. Pegula played what was arguably her best match of the year in the win over Navarro.
“I think we’re all playing really good tennis, I think any of us could play for sure,” Pegula said. “Doesn’t matter ranking or whatever; we’ve all been playing really good. Emma’s been having an amazing start to the year. I feel like she’s been playing the best out of anyone, really.”
Sabalenka, who won the Australian Open in January, entered Indian Wells ranked No. 2 in the world, but on March 13 Navarro sprang the upset to become the first American player since 2001 to defeat a top-2 opponent in Indian Wells. (Serena Williams defeated Lindsay Davenport in a quarterfinal in 2001, the year Navarro was born.)
Sabalenka had nothing but praise for Navarro.
“She’s already a top player,” Sabalenka told reporters after the upset. “No doubt she’s going to be in (the) top for a while. She just played different -- rhythm, more spin. Forehand, really great forehand. Overall, I would say she’s moving well and playing some different rhythms so you always have to adjust. I wasn’t moving that great today, and that’s why she forced me for all those unforced errors. But yeah, her potential is really great. I think she has potential to be Top 10.”
Navarro ended 2023 at World No. 38 and arrived in the California desert at No. 23 based on her first WTA title, achieved in Hobart, while finishing second in Auckland and San Diego.
While Navarro reached the pinnacle of success as a tennis player at the University of Virginia by winning an NCAA singles title, the triumphs at the college level don’t always translate into wins on the pro circuit.
But Navarro has made the transition and is now in the running for the most improved player on the WTA Tour.
Navarro will be making her fourth appearance in Charleston competing in the WTA 500 event.
She made her Charleston debut as an amateur in 2019 and picked up her first victory in Charleston in 2021 when the tourney was known as the Volvo Car Open.
“It’s always very special to play at home and be able to play in front of a lot of people that I see on a daily basis,” Navarro said during a press conference last year. “I feel very honored to be playing for Charleston.”
Navarro’s only other victory over a top-10 foe was last September when she beat third-ranked Maria Sakkari of Greece in the quarterfinals in San Diego last September.
But in the BNP Paribas quarterfinal, Sakkari ended Navarro’s run in the desert with a 5-7, 6-2, 6-4 decision that took nearly three hours. 
Meanwhile in Miami, longtime Charleston fan favorite Shelby Rogers gained her first victory in nearly a year with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 decision over Czech teen sensation Linda Fruhvirtova.
Last year offered just about every life experience for the 31-year-old Mount Pleasant native. Prior to last year’s Charleston Open, longtime boyfriend and hockey player John Slavik proposed to Rogers.
Shortly after, she was World No. 33 when she won a match last April at the Mutua Madrid Open. But she missed most of the second half of the season when she underwent knee surgery for the second time in her career.
Rogers, who reached a career high of World No. 30, entered Miami at No. 325 because of her absence.
“I’m not getting any younger, so every match I play now is really special,” Rogers said in an interview with the Tennis Channel. “The rehab is hard, coming back, and all these players are so good -- and they’re like, half my age.”
Rogers, who married Slavik in December, returned to the WTA Tour in January, but lost in the first round of the Australian Open.
Rogers’ stay in Miami ended when 2021 Roland Garros runner-up Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova won in two sets.
Rogers was not listed in the 2024 Credit One Charleston Open field as of March 26. But she could earn entry into the tourney as a wild card.
Stay tuned.

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