There was a bit of an emergency in the Ben Navarro household recently. Daughter Emma, a junior at Ashley Hall, twisted her ankle while playing dodge ball during a lock-in event at the school.
No big deal, right?
The thing is, Emma is one of the top-ranked junior tennis players in the country and was preparing to play in the biggest event of her young career — this week's Volvo Car Open on Daniel Island, where three of the top 10 and 10 of the top 20 players on the WTA Tour are due to compete.
"We got that thing in ice and she worked her butt off to get it better," father Ben says. "She's back to 100 percent, but we had a little scare there."
This week's Volvo Car Open — the 47th edition of the tournament once known as the Family Circle Cup, and its 19th year on Daniel Island — is fraught with all kinds of emotion for the Navarro family.
Not only is 17-year-old Emma playing — she earned a wild card into the main draw by winning the USTA Girls 18 National Clay Court Championships in Charleston last summer — but father Ben Navarro takes over as the new owner of the Volvo Car Open.
Navarro, a Charleston businessman who attempted to buy the NFL's Carolina Panthers last year, purchased the Volvo Car Open, along with the operations of the Family Circle Tennis Center and Volvo Car Stadium, in a deal announced in September.
Navarro, the CEO and founder of Charleston-based Sherman Financial Group, also owns the Live to Play Tennis Club in Mount Pleasant, and is the founder of the education nonprofit Meeting Street Schools.
This new venture takes Ben Navarro from a Volvo Car Open fan, and box-seat owner, to owner of the entire show.
"Every year since I've lived in Charleston, I've had a box and it's been my favorite event," Navarro said. "For me, it signals that spring is here and along with it the nicer weather.
"I used to go the U.S. Open every year when I lived in New York, and the Volvo Car Open has taken the place of that. I could never believe that I could pick up my kids after their practices, throw them in the car and go out there and see amazing matches, and then be home in time for bed. It's so great."
News of the deal was popular among WTA players, especially after Navarro decided to keep tournament director Bob Moran and tournament manager Eleanor Adams on board.
"I think it's a great thing," said Charleston's Shelby Rogers, a 10-year veteran of the WTA Tour. "And a lot of the players on the Tour will agree. We are happy that Bob and Eleanor are still on the job, but with local ownership.
"(Navarro) has a lot of great intentions, and I'm excited to see what he can do."
"No. 1, he's very passionate about both the sport and the community," Moran said. "Having those two passions together really helps us as an event. He wants to see it get better, and has talked about things he would like to see and wants to do.
"He wants to be world class in everything we do. I believe we already are, but we can always get better."
Navarro said he wants to add to the foundation that Moran and Adams have built.
"I've only really attempted to improve on what Bob and his team have been doing for years," Navarro said. "They are the reason the Volvo Car Open for years has been the most successful domestic tournament at its level, and it is."
In addition to the strong field — three top 10 players is the tournament's most since 2015, and the VCO's No. 10 seed is ranked No. 20, compared with an average of No. 30 over the previous 10 years — longtime fans will notice different dining and entertainment options this year.
This year, there's a new rooftop restaurant featuring food from Coastal Crust and Vintage Cafe, and a new main dining tent called the Serve & Volley.
"We'll get better and better every year," Navarro said. "You won't come just for the tennis, but for all kinds of reasons."
Weekend qualifying matches wrap up Sunday and the VCO main draw begins Monday.