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Doubles Duo Grabs National Clay Court Title

July 26, 2016 03:35 PM

Emma Navarro, left, and Chloe Beck won the 16s doubles. Photos by Bill Kallenberg

Other notable finishes for Southern juniors:
- Blake Croyder, Marietta, GA, Boys' 16s doubles champion, Gold Ball (pictured)
- Drew Baird, Holly Springs, NC, Boys' 16s doubles finalist, SIlver Ball
- Jared Pratt, Daniel Island, SC, Boys' 16s singles third, Bronze Ball
- Kylie Collins, Savannah, GA, & Annemaire Hiser, Acworth, GA, Girls' 14s doubles, third, Bronze Ball
- James Delgado, High Point, NC, Boys' 12s doubles champion, Gold Ball
- Victor Lilov, Raleigh, NC, Boys' 12s singles finalist, Silver Ball
- Braden Shick, Greensboro, NC, Boy's 12s, doubles, Silver Ball
- John Lasanajak, Lawrenceville, GA, Boy's 12s third, Bronze Ball
- Carri Hayes, Mt. Pleasant, SC, Girls' 12s singles, third, Bronze Ball


By James Beck/Special to USTA Southern

A chance pairing a year ago for girls from neighboring Georgia and South Carolina has blossomed into a Girls’ 16s national doubles championship team. And both players have another full year in 16s to improve on their status.

The young duo won the USTA Girls’ 16s National Clay Court Championship, contested in Virginia Beach, Va. last weekend.

"I don't really know how we got together. We hadn't even talked before that," is the way Chloe Beck of Watkinsville, Ga., describes her pairing with Emma Navarro of Charleston, S.C.

"We decided to play that one tournament together (2015 Sweet Sixteen in Delray Beach, Fla., in Girls’ 14s). We kind of got together because we didn't have a partner for that tournament."

The Beck/Navarro team won that first tournament together, then captured the 14-and-under  Eddie Herr crown.

They moved up to girls 16 doubles . . . and kept winning. They went to Indian Wells, Calif., in April and came back with the Easter Bowl championship.

Beck and Navarro capped off a sparkling year of doubles by more than living up to their No. 2 national seeding while virtually waltzing to the USTA Girls’ 16s National Clay Court doubles championship last week in Virginia Beach, Va. They didn't drop a set.

Beck and Navarro breezed to the title on Saturday with a 6-3, 6-1 win over Alexa Noel of Summit, N.J., and Payton Stearns of Mason, Ohio.

"It's just fun playing doubles," Navarro said. "We played really well in the final. The only close match was in the quarterfinals when we were down 4-5, 30-40. We came back and won 7-5, and won the next set 6-1. That and the first round were probably our toughest matches."

The final had few tense moments, but not as they closed out the final.

"I served for the national championship at 5-1, 40-15 . . . and we took a lot of pictures," Navarro recalled about the title match.

Beck won't turn 15 years old until late August. She already is ranked No. 31 nationally in 16-and-under singles. Navarro turned 15 in May.

It looks like this could be a team for the future. Both are in the 5-6 height range. So much for the theory that taller players usually have better success in doubles.

"The team we played in the final was pretty much the same height as we were," Beck said.

A big part of the team's success comes from Navarro's solid baseline game and strong serve, a combination that plays right into the quick hands of Beck at the net.

"My ground strokes set Chloe up for volleys at the net," Navarro said.

And Beck loves to poach. "I really love my volleys. I poach a lot," she said. "Emma has a good serve and that sets me up for my volleys. We play with each other a lot, so we know how to play with each other.

"We don't use signals a lot, but before Emma serves we usually discuss where she is going to serve to. Emma doesn't miss a lot of ground strokes, so I can poach and go when she hits a really deep ball," Beck said.

What's the team's philosophy? "We just try to keep our energy up and stay positive," Navarro said.

While Beck advanced to the round of 16 in singles at Virginia Beach, Navarro made the third round.

Beck trains with her parents, Debbie and Mike Beck, at the Beck Tennis Academy at the Jennings Mill Country Club in Bogart, Ga. "It's right around the corner from my house," Beck said.

Prior to heading out with Navarro  to big tournaments such as last week's national 16s, Beck often goes to Charleston to practice with Navarro for a few days at LTP Tennis and Swim Club in Mount Pleasant, the facility owned by her father Ben Navarro and the host site for last week's Boys 12 National Clay Court Championships.

"After we played the Intersectionals (Intersectional Team Championships where they went 3-0 in doubles), we came to Charleston and then left straight from there to Virginia Beach," Beck said.

Navarro's coach at LTP Tennis, Peter Ayers, often also works with Beck at tournaments. "He's not my coach, but he definitely helps," Beck said.

Navarro to attend Ashley Hall
While both Beck and Navarro have been online-schooled in the past, Navarro will attend Charleston's Ashley Hall School this fall as a freshman. Navarro doesn't plan on playing high school tennis, but instead will continue to concentrate on her tennis training.

Not only does her father own LTP Tennis where she never has to worry about getting a court, Navarro's sister Maggie and brother Earl are Southern-ranked juniors.

Both Beck and Navarro have college tennis in their future plans. "I definitely want to play college tennis, and after that I will see what happens," Beck said.

The University of Georgia might be Beck's top choice, considering that Watkinsville is near Athens. She doesn't hesitate to admit, "We (her family) are diehard Georgia fans."

At match point, Beck call hindrance on herself
Beck also gave the tournament a special moment in singles with a true display of sportsmanship on the last point of her 6-3, 4-6, 7-5 round of 16 loss to Vanessa Ong of Oklahoma City.

On the long match-point while serving at 5-6, 30-40, she hit what she thought was a forehand winner. She celebrated with a "Come on," thinking the match would continue. And it did. To her disbelief, the ball came back. Beck caught the ball, and called a hindrance on herself, ending her dreams in singles. She then shook Ong's hand  in what has been called "a total class act" by observers.

"Even though I didn't intentionally cause a hindrance, I knew it was the right thing to do to give her the point," Beck later said. "I knew that you aren't allowed to say ‘Come on’ before the point is over because it is a hindrance.

" I'm not usually very verbal with celebrations, but it was really a tight match and we were both really into it. After I said, 'Come on,' I knew that I should give her the point."

That, indeed, was a special moment for all of tennis.

James Beck (not related to Chloe) is the longtime tennis columnist for the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier newspaper. He can be reached at jamesbecktennis@gmail.com