Navarro

Emma Navarro

Emma Navarro came to play Saturday morning at Wimbledon.

Indeed, the Charleston 18-year-old looked like the top girls seed she is at Junior Wimbledon.

With the famed Centre Court in the background and a nice crowd of several hundred fans watching on an outside court, Navarro played almost perfect tennis while yielding only seven points in winning the first six games in 15 minutes before "just" outplaying young Diana Shnaider of Russia in the second set to close out a 6-0, 6-2 first-round victory.

"I'm very happy with today's performance. I served well and mixed in slices really well," Navarro said.

Navarro now has the rest of the weekend off, except for practicing with her coach, Peter Ayers, and hitting partner Huntley Allen of the Southern Methodist University tennis team, who trains with Navarro at Randy Pate Tennis Academy at LTP Mount Pleasant. And there will be ample practice, starting with Sunday morning on the Wimbledon courts, according to Ayers.

The practice hours Navarro spent during the last week on grass courts came through loud and clear in her 42-minute victory in her opener in the 64-player draw. Of course, she will be busy when Monday arrives and she will be in the round of 32 in singles and doubles.

"Great start from Emma today," Ayers said. "She had a terrific week of practice on the grass. She is getting more comfortable by the day."

Chloe Beck, who teamed with Navarro to win the Junior French Open doubles crown, was off Saturday, and will start play in doubles with Navarro and in singles once Wimbledon opens back up after taking the "middle Sunday" off.

About her No. 1 seeding at the world's most prominent Junior Grand Slam, Navarro said, "I don't worry too much about seeding, but it is very cool to be the one seed at Wimbeldon."

Currently ranked 50th among world juniors as only a 15-year-old, Shnaider flashed power, but her problem was keeping the ball on the court against Navarro's heavy and consistent ground strokes, and solid serving. Shnaider led Navarro, 14-12 in winners, but also had 23 unforced errors. Navarro committed only one unforced error.

Shnaider appeared to be a step slower in getting to Navarro's deep ground strokes.

As it turned out, Shnaider's only trustworthy weapon was her serve which she used to hold service in the first two games of the second set for a 2-1 lead.

Navarro, the world's No. 4 junior who lost in the first round of an ITF junior event last week at Roehampton, England, then took charge again, and marched through five consecutive games.

"I'm happy with how I was able to bounce back after a tough loss last week," she said. "We trained super hard the past five or six days and I definitely feel good about my game going into this week."

Navarro didn't face a break point in the match, and only one deuce game against her serve.

The Ashley Hall School senior won that deuce sixth game to take a 4-2 lead in the second set. She broke Shnaider at 15-40 for a 5-2 edge before allowing her opponent to rally from 40-0 to 40-30 in the decisive eighth game. Navarro then unleashed a drop shot that Shnaider barely got to before sailing a backhand wide to end the match.

One of the keys was Navarro's serving. She won the point on 19 of the 21 first serves she put into play. Navarro also won 26 of her 44 receiving points.

Reach James Beck at jamesbecktennis@gmail.com.

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