WIMBLEDON, England — Who’s next?
Emma Navarro and Chloe Beck are recognized as world-class junior tennis players.
Shelby Rogers has gone one step further to become a world-class professional.
So, who will follow or join this threesome of talented players from Charleston (or with local roots) on the world scene of tennis?
The answer to that question may become a little more obvious during the next week as the USTA Girls 18 National Clay Court Championships take over at LTP Mount Pleasant. A large number of local players are scheduled to compete in the nationally recognized event that starts on Sunday.
A year ago, Navarro won the singles title and teamed with Beck to capture the doubles title. Both were rewarded with wild cards in the main draw of the Volvo Car Open, where Navarro and Beck even scored one doubles victory over players from the WTA Tour’s pros.
That’s a tall task for locals to follow. But there is a group of local girls just waiting in the wings to make their own marks in tennis.
Navarro and Beck are sitting out the national clay courts since they just completed play on Friday at Junior Wimbledon. Navarro made an
appearance in the singles semifinals of the premiere
junior tournament in the world and the Junior French Open doubles champion Beck-Navarro team made at least the quarterfinals of the last four Junior Grand Slams.
By the way, the national clay courts are free and open to the public. As usual at LTP, the seating sections will be covered. It’s a great place to watch some of the best junior tennis in the world.
The likes of Allie Gretkowski, Anna Ross, Emma Charney and Lara Schneider are all good enough to win the national title with Navarro missing. All four play out of the Randy Pate Tennis Academy, which has a total of nine players in the nationals.
The other five entries from RPTA are Callie Billman, Whitley Pate, Abby Cotuna and Caroline Hudson, along with newcomer Claudia Miller from Chicago. Former Porter-Gaud All-Lowcountry star Sophie Williams also has an entry in the nationals.
Who appears to be the best of the best?
“Everybody’s path is different, but certainly Anna Ross (Vanderbilt) and Lara Schneider (Ohio State) have already achieved a lot by getting these scholarships,” said Patrick Heiber, the tennis director for both LTP facilities, Mount Pleasant and Daniel Island.
“All of them are on their own development and we are very proud to have nine of our own girls in this tournament (national clay courts). Emma Charney is 16 with ridiculous athleticism and tons of
potential, and Allie Gretkowski and Whitley Pate are only 15 and can both be really strong players in the very near future.”
Snigur proves herself
It’s too bad that Emma Navarro couldn’t figure out a way to outplay cagey Daria Snigur in the Junior Wimbledon semifinals on Friday.
But Navarro doesn’t need to feel too bad. No one has figured out Snigur’s unique game on grass courts lately.
The 17-year-old Ukrainian was holding Junior Wimbledon’s silver cup for junior girls on Saturday after scoring a 6-4, 6-4 win over 16-year-old American Alexa Noel in Wimbledon’s other covered court, the No. 1 stadium at Wimbledon.
It easily could have been Navarro going to all four sides of the stadium to smile and show off the silver cup to the crowd of thousands while next door on Centre Court Simona Halep was defeating Serena Williams in the women’s final.
Snigur also defeated Noel in the ITF J1 final at Roehampton a week earlier. Of course, Roehampton was the grass court tuneup for Junior Wimbledon.
Navarro had been on a fabulous roll with rallies to win three straight matches after losing the first sets. Then came Snigur, a player Navarro and her coach, Peter Ayers, were very familiar with.
Navarro lost to Snigur in the Junior Australian Open before beating her in the
Junior French Open, both three-setters.
Snigur has become a major force in junior tennis and is sure to zoom up the ITF junior world rankings from her current No. 17 spot.
Navarro’s success at Junior Wimbledon caught the attention of many fans in Charleston. Edward Fenno, a Charleston attorney whose son Brant Fenno was a big star at Porter-Gaud and is getting ready to join the NCAA finalist Wake Forest tennis team, sent this message: “Sad to hear it (Navarro’s singles and doubles losses on Friday), but what a great run! We are all very impressed!”
With Patrick Heiber now directing the tennis programs at both LTP Mount Pleasant and LTP Daniel Island, the Randy Pate Academy has lured Chris Cagle to take over Heiber’s old duties as tennis director of the academy. Cagle had spent the last five seasons as Penn State’s women’s coach.
Gretkowski recently won a USTA national level 2 tournament in Chattanooga, Tenn. Gretkowski had been playing mostly girls 18 events and ITF tournaments. She needed to make the final in Chattanooga to be endorsed for the girls 16 national hard courts in San Diego later this summer.
Reach James Beck at firstname.lastname@example.org.