Emma Navarro beats Aryna Sabalenka, world No 2, at Indian Wells for biggest win of her career

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Emma Navarro is officially done playing tennis under the radar.

Navarro, ranked No 23 in the world, scored the biggest win of her career on Wednesday, beating the two-time Grand Slam champion Aryna Sabalenka in three sets, 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 at the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, the so-called fifth slam.

There are far more famous American tennis players, like Coco Gauff. There is even a far more famous “Emma” in the sport. That would be Emma Raducanu, of Great Britain, who came out of nowhere to win the 2021 U.S. Open. That Emma, though, is working her way back from wrist and ankle surgery and is ranked 250th in the world.

The 22-year-old Navarro, on the other hand, has been shooting up the rankings for the better part of three years on the strength of a game that gets more solid with each passing week. Navarro, an NCAA champion at the University of Virginia, started the year winning her first WTA tournament in Hobart, Australia, then made the third round of the Australian Open.

At Indian Wells, she played one of the top matches of the tournament, outlasting Elina Svitolina on Monday night in a tight third set, that few witnessed because it followed Novak Djokovic’s surprising loss to Luca Nardi.

On Wednesday, she took advantage of a shaky Sabalenka, who struggled to find consistency on her serve all afternoon, and rode the wave of support from the home-country crowd across the finish line to beat the world No 2 and reach the quarterfinals of a WTA 1000 event for the first time.

Speaking on court after her outstanding win, Navarro said: “I’m feeling really good, it’s never easy playing an opponent like that — so experience and so talented. I was able to play some good tennis in the big moments.”

Navarro has now won 18 matches on the women’s tour in 2024, the most of any player.

(Robert Prange/Getty Images)

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