Thanks for visiting the Australian Open Website. We can see you’re using Internet Explorer, and wanted to let you know that we will no longer be supporting this browser in future. We’d recommend you download a new browser if you'd like to continue keeping up with all of the latest tennis news!

New Grand Slam seed Navarro: “It's a little bit overwhelming”

  • Matt Trollope

It’s relatively uncommon someone arrives, as a seed, to a Grand Slam tournament where they have never before played in the main draw.

But that’s exactly what No.27 seed Emma Navarro has done at Australian Open 2024. She’s never played in qualifying here, either.

Despite her relative unfamiliarity with Melbourne Park’s surrounds, she navigated past dangerous lefty Wang Xiyu on Court 3 in the first round on Tuesday – her second-ever Grand Slam main-draw win, in just her fifth appearance in the main draw of a major.

MORE: AO 2024 women's singles draw

This time last year, Navarro was ranked 148th and competing at ITF tournaments in the United States.  

Now, she’s at a career-high ranking of 26th, having won her first career WTA title just last week in Hobart. 

Navarro's rise has been meteoric in the past 12 months

"It's pretty crazy, and I guess just the improvements in the rankings and results-wise too, it's a little bit overwhelming,” the 22-year-old told  

“It's, I guess, just a testament to a lot of years of a lot of hard work that me and my team put in, and I'm just really grateful to be able to be back here and be in this position, and yeah, it's awesome.  

“But nothing changes – the goal is still to keep getting better every day and just keep playing the sport I love.” 

It’s not entirely true that Navarro has never played at the Australian Open.  

She played the junior event in 2019, the same year she peaked at world No.3 in the junior rankings after reaching the Roland Garros girls’ singles final.

When reminded it had been five years since her initial trip, she said she didn’t think she’d be back to Melbourne Park.

BONUS: Download your copy of the Australian Open 2024 Official Program

"It's taken a lot for me to, I guess, just believe in myself as a player,” she admitted, when asked why.  

“I'm definitely a perfectionist, and so every day on the court I would expect perfection from myself. If I didn't get it I would think 'oh well, I'm not good enough, I can't play with these types of players'.  

“So I guess (I have been) just kind of getting over that, and believing that I am good enough and I can play at this level and I belong here, and just having that belief in myself.

“It's something I still work on today, so that's definitely been a mindset shift.” 

Following her junior career, Navarro spent an extremely successful two-year stint at the University of Virginia playing college tennis, becoming an NCAA singles champion in 2021.

She turned pro in mid-2022, and worked her way inside the world’s top 150.

With that ranking, she could have played the qualifying tournament at Australian Open 2023. But she chose a different path. 

Navarro feels her plan to methodically build her game and confidence has paid off

"I think as a player I wasn't ready to, I don't know, travel halfway across the world to maybe lose first round,” she revealed.  

“My priority at that time was (to) get a bunch of matches in, and I felt like I needed to start at square one and build my game mentally and physically, and my confidence.  

“I was playing ITF 25Ks this time last year, and it's exactly where I needed to be. And I didn't want to make the mistake of running from that level, to try to chase something that I wasn't ready to be at.  

“I didn't feel like I was ready to play in the Australian Open, mentally or physically, and I felt like I had to go through that rite of passage, I guess, of getting through the ITFs.  

“It's a grind, and I think it's served me really well.” 

Indeed, Navarro won 64 matches in 2023, banking the confidence from her ITF circuit success and carrying it into more prestigious events.

She won her first Grand Slam main-draw match at Roland Garros, reached a first WTA semifinal in Bad Homburg, reached an even bigger semifinal at 500-level in San Diego, and ended the year ranked world No.38 – an improvement of more than 100 places.

She has been even better in 2024, reaching the semis in Auckland before her Hobart success and building a 9-1 win-loss record.

"I've never tried to put too much weight on ranking or results or that type of thing, but I think it's important for me sometimes to take a step back and just appreciate how far I've come,” said Navarro, who has won 28 of her past 33 matches.

“I guess career-high ranking 26, it's pretty crazy and it's hard for me to believe. It's just happened so fast... I'm still wrapping my head around that I guess, and just trusting that I am that player that's ranked No.26, it's not a fluke.  

“That's where I'm at right now, so it's pretty crazy, but it's cool.”

Following her 6-1 6-7(5) 7-5 win over Wang, Navarro faces Italy’s Elisabetta Cocciaretto for a shot at her first appearance in the last 32 of a major. 

"I think the sky's the limit,” she replied when asked how far she could go.

“My goal from here is play great tennis, obviously, but just really enjoy the moment and enjoy the stage that I'm on and just that I'm here playing in the Australian Open.

“It's a dream come true for me and my family and my coach as well, so for us to all be here together, and me to be in this position, is really awesome.  

“Just really want to take it all in.”