Volvo Car Open (copy)

Charleston's Emma Navarro, seen here in the Volvo Car Open, has made the singles finals of the Junior French Open. Brad Nettles/Staff

Emma Navarro is a singles finalist in the Junior French Open.

The 18-year-old rising star is Charleston's first player to make a Junior Grand Slam singles final in the Open era of professional tennis.

And Navarro appears to be on the verge of making it a "Double Final" on Saturday in Paris. The rising Ashley Hall senior and her partner, Chloe Beck, also were ahead in their doubles semifinal on Friday when rain interrupted the match.

Past winners of the Junior French Open include tennis luminaries such as Gabriela Sabatini, Jennifer Capriati, Martina Hingis, Justine Henin and Simona Halep.

"It's definitely been a crazy couple of days," Navarro said. "Waking up yesterday morning, I was in the third round of singles and second round of doubles. And now, not even 48 hours later, I'm going to bed in the finals of singles and semis of doubles. It's pretty crazy."

It was especially crazy on Friday after Navarro won only two games in the first set against of her semifinal against Qinwen Zheng of China. At that point, Zheng had dropped a total of only seven games to Navarro in their previous five sets of singles.

But Navarro has shown time and time again that she doesn't yield in the face of pressure.

Navarro fought off three break points in the first game of the second set and then battled through cold, brisk winds and rain to upset the world's No. 10 junior Zheng, 2-6, 6-1, 6-4, in Friday's semifinals on the damp red clay of Paris' Roland Garros.

"It was a spectacular performance from Emma on so many levels today," said her coach, Peter Ayers. "The match was contested at an extremely high level in very difficult conditions, intermittent drizzle throughout with gusty winds."

Assured of leaping into the world's top 10 junior rankings, No. 8 seed Navarro will go for a Roland Garris singles title on Saturday against No. 1 singles seed Leylah Fernandez, a left-hander from Montreal.

"Today's singles match was super tough. She (Zheng) came to the court with the mindset that she was going to come after me. Make it or miss it, she was going to go big and be aggressive," Navarro said.

"That kind of knocked me back a little at the beginning, but I sort of found my way in the second set and was able to push back against her power, which definitely made the difference in the match."

Zheng didn't face her first break point until the fourth game of the second set, but Navarro won that one and repeated it two games later, then held service to even the match at one set apiece.

The most crucial service break of all for Navarro came in the ninth game of a deadlocked third set when rain drops were mixing in with a heavy wind. Navarro made good on the third break point for a 5-4 lead, then saved a break point in the 10th game before closing out the match after 103 minutes on the first match point.

"Emma knew Zheng would play big based on their two prior meetings," Ayers said. "On both occasions Zheng was able to almost bully Emma with major league power. Honestly for a time, the same thing was happening today.

"Emma was able to make a mid-match adjustment to get off her heels and start pushing back. Everything that Emma has been working on was on display. I knew Emma had it in her, she just needed to commit to the mindset and trust that the shots are in her. She learned something about herself today. I am beyond proud."

After scoring a 6-4, 6-4 quarterfinal doubles victory over Zheng and Taisya Pachkalena of Russia earlier Friday, Navarro and Beck held a 6-3, 1-0 lead over No. 7 seeds Adrienn Nagy of Hungary and Sohyun Park of Korea in the doubles semifinals Friday when play was washed out.

With a win in that one, Saturday would mark the third consecutive day that Navarro has been involved in three matches the same day.

"I remember the Southern tennis days when we would play three backdraw matches and a doubles match every day for multiple days in a row," Navarro said. "Looking back on that, I don't know how I did it."

Reach James Beck at jamesbecktennis@gmail.com

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