Emma Navarro faces her toughest test yet in the Round of 16 at Indian Wells

Navarro faces World No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka for the first time in her career on Wednesday

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22-year-old American Emma Navarro is working her way up the WTA rankings and earned her first WTA singles title at Hobart earlier this year. On Monday night, she defeated Elina Svitolina, in a tough three set match. That puts her into the Round of 16 at Indian Wells for the first time in her career, and she faces one of the most competitive players on the WTA Tour, World No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka on Wednesday.

Even though Sabalenka had a close call a couple of rounds ago against Peyton Stearns, her power serve and aggressive strokes are in a league of their own. Navarro, one of the hottest players on the tour in 2024, will have a big challenge on her hands and her racquet.

Navarro does not have the power game Sabalenka has, but she is an expert shot maker and a great athlete moving around the court with speed and ease. Her game plan has to include moving Sabalenka around the court to elicit unforced errors. Sabalenka will be the heavy favorite to win this match, but Navarro will have the home crowd supporting her, and as we have seen so far with Novak Djokovic at Indian Wells, upsets can happen.

Navarro is the latest to come into professional tennis from the NCAA

It used to be a rarity for professional tennis players to take the college route first. John Isner, Christopher Eubanks, Ben Shelton, Danielle Collins, Peyton Stearns and Navarro are NCAA champions who succeeded on the ATP and WTA Tours. College players usually bypass the juniors route and hone their games in a team setting. As a result, they become adept at doubles and mixed doubles.

We got a sneak peek of this at the Eisenhower Cup last week when Shelton and Navarro teamed up for mixed doubles and won the exhibition event.

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