Emma Navarro

Emma Navarro receives the national girls 18 hard courts runner-up award from Tennis Hall of Famer Rosie Casals (right), with tournament namesake and hall of famer Billie Jean King (left) in background. From TV screenshot

Charleston's Emma Navarro ran into a backboard on Sunday while attempting to earn a wild card into the U.S. Open's main singles draw.

The backboard came in the form of 17-year-old Katie Volynets of Walnut Creek, Calif., the No. 2 seed in the USTA's Billie Jean King Girls 18 National Hard Courts Tennis Championships.

The ultra-consistent Volynets picked up the winner's trophy and the main draw wild card into the U.S. Open with a 6-2, 6-4 victory over No. 3 seed Navarro in the Tennis Channel-televised final in San Diego.

World's No. 4 junior Navarro didn't leave empty handed. As the runner-up, the 18-year-old Ashley Hall senior earned a wild card into the U.S. Open's qualifying tournament.

"I'm really excited about playing the U.S. Open qualifying. It's an amazing opportunity and a dream come true," Navarro said.

In the overall scheme of things, the U.S. Open qualifying berth is a terrific reward. The qualifying tournament will start in a week's time, while the main draw is set for Aug. 26 or a week before the Junior U.S. Open kicks off at the Billie Jean King Tennis Center in New York City. This scenario gives Navarro at least a week off to prepare for the heavy load of singles and doubles the Junior U.S. Open will present. Of course, unless Navarro fights her way through qualifying and lands in the main draw anyway.

This day belonged to Volynets, not a power player, just a cagey performer who seldom misses the mark but who demonstrated that she is perfectly capable of mixing in winning serves and ground strokes while delivering a steady stream of body blows in long rallies. Volynets started four of her nine service games with service winners, and two others with aces, including the last game of the match.

"It was a super tough match today. We had lots of tough points and good rallies," Navarro said. "She played really well and I'm happy with how I played. Obviously there were a few points here and there that went her way that really decided the match."

Committing errors early, Navarro fell behind 4-0 against Volynets' perfectly executed strategy that resulted in just seven unforced errors in the first set.

Navarro dropped service in the first game of the second set, but then won the next two games. She held a 4-3 lead and reached a pair of deuces in the eighth game against Volynets' serve.

But Navarro started the next game with two errors on points she had appeared to have the upper hand in as she fell behind, 5-4, allowing Volynets to serve for the match.

Navarro owned a 30-15 lead in the decisive 10th game, but then Volynets won the last three points of the 78-minute match.

Reach James Beck at jamesbecktennis@gmail.com

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