My Town

My Town: Tennis Star Emma Navarro’s Charleston Game Plan

The breakout player of the year shares the spots she’ll hit during her hometown Credit One Charleston Open

A woman wearing a grey tank top and white skirt playing tennis.

Photo: Ray Giubilo

Emma Navarro at the 2024 BNP Paribas Open.

When Emma Navarro takes the court at the Credit One Charleston Open tennis tournament this week, she’ll do so as a serious title contender for the first time. The twenty-two-year-old has won more matches this year than any other player in the draw, netting her first professional title and a top twenty debut on the Women’s Tennis Association singles rankings. Her breakout has surprised the whole tennis world, including herself. “I definitely did not expect to be [in the] top twenty the first few months of the year,” she says, “and when I take a step back and acknowledge it, it’s pretty crazy.” 

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After playing tournaments in five countries since January, Navarro is excited to come home. “Charleston is my favorite city in the world,” she says. “I love to walk around downtown and see the houses and say good morning or good evening to the people.” This will be her only chance to compete on the sandy green-clay courts she grew up on. Charleston is the lone women’s tournament played on the surface, and the 2021 NCAA champ built her game to suit it at Charleston’s Live to Play Academy over the last fifteen years. Advantage Emma. 

photo: Courtesy of WTA
Navarro with dog Marti.

The event, which takes place at Credit One Stadium on Charleston’s Daniel Island, isn’t merely her hometown tournament (as it is, too, for Charleston native Shelby Rogers, also in the draw). It’s Navarro’s second home—the competition is owned by her father Ben Navarro’s company Beemok Sports & Entertainment. The kinship adds to the pressure of playing in front of so many family and friends. But don’t hold back if you go to cheer at one of her matches. Navarro, a naturally relaxed competitor, embraces the nerves. She hopes Charleston fans help her conjure the new emotions she has felt on court this year, like when she took the lead against Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka late in their match at the Indian Wells tourney in March. “The crowd erupted,” she recalls. “I’m playing against the number two player in the world on center court and the crowd is on its feet. I got chills in that moment.” She coolly closed out the match, the biggest upset of the tournament. 

The hype soared afterward, and now Navarro isn’t sneaking up on anyone. No one will be surprised if she wins the Charleston Open—or makes the U.S. Olympic team this summer. Here she shares some of her favorite things to do in town. A week communing with these old favorites might be just what she needs to lift her second trophy.

Morning

“My dogs, Marti and Major Tom, love Sullivan’s Island. They love to swim and harass other dogs on the beach. There are certain hours when you have to keep them on the leash, so I try to go early. And whenever I come home, I try to get a bagel from Holey City Bagels. They’re the best bagels in Charleston. My order is a sausage, egg, and cheese on a plain bagel. Second State Coffee is my favorite coffee shop.”

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Afternoon

“The Credit One tournament is the best [of its size] in the world. It has all kinds of interactive activities, like measuring the speed of your serve. The food is great and there are all kinds of areas to sit in the shade and have a drink. I like to shop, so I’ll also take a trip to King Street. You can’t go wrong there. There are all kinds of athletic shops that I’m not supposed to wear because Fila gets me right. I usually play golf at Daniel Island [Club], but I golf lefty even though I play right-handed. So if I play too much golf, it messes with my backhand.”

Evening

Colonial Lake is my stomping grounds. I live near there, and it’s nice to walk around during sunset hours. My grandfather [football coaching legend Frank Navarro] passed away a few years ago. He and my grandmother liked to sit on a certain bench and people-watch. We put a plaque at the bench for him, so if Grammy is in town, we always visit their bench. There’s one restaurant that I’ve been recommending to players this year: My dad opened an Italian restaurant called Sorelle. I get the spaghetti, with thick-cut noodles, tomato sauce, burrata, and little crispy zucchini pieces. It’s the simplest thing on the menu but I’d say the best.” 

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