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Emma Navarro’s Mental Strategies Propel Her Past Naomi Osaka at Wimbledon

Emma Navarro’s Mental Strategies Propel Her Past Naomi Osaka at Wimbledonillustration

Emma Navarro delivered a clean and effective performance to defeat at Wimbledon on Wednesday. Navarro's precision was evident with just five unforced errors and 16 winners, facing no break points and succeeding in all four net approaches.

Navarro's , which secured her a place in the third round for the first time at the All England Club, was aided by her mental preparation. The 23-year-old American noted key reminders on her cellphone before the match, which helped her navigate the high-pressure environment of Centre Court.

“That's an atmosphere that could easily overwhelm me, or overwhelm any player, and I spent just a good amount of time preparing myself mentally for the emotions and the nerves I was going to feel. Then once I got out there, I just felt really at home,” said Navarro, who won the 2021 NCAA singles title for the University of Virginia and is seeded 19th at this year's grass-court Grand Slam.

“In the notes, I told myself to make the court my home and never be afraid to stay out there for as long as it takes,” Navarro said. “I was able to do that today and it's pretty cool to come out on the other end of an experience when you're not sure how it's going to go.”

Osaka, a four-time major champion and former No. 1, struggled on grass, a surface where she has historically underperformed. All her Grand Slam titles have come on hard courts. Osaka's win on Monday was her first at Wimbledon since 2018, having last participated in 2019.

“Even though in the beginning, it was kind of like we were trading games, I don't know why, (but) I didn't feel fully confident in myself. I didn't feel like I was playing that well,” said Osaka, who returned to the tour in January after taking 15 months off and becoming a mother. “I guess those doubts started trickling in a lot (and) into my game.”

Navarro's ranking has surged recently, climbing from No. 143 at the end of 2022 to No. 38 last year, and currently standing at No. 17. She had not advanced past the second round in her first four Grand Slam appearances, but reached the third round at the Australian Open, the fourth round at the French Open, and now aims for a similar or better performance at Wimbledon. Her next match is against 20-year-old Russian Diana Shnaider, who played college at North Carolina State.

Navarro plans to continue her practice of noting mental cues before her matches.

“I'll write just some bullet points. There are some things that stay constant, that I always write. And then there are other things that are specific to a certain day or a certain match,” she said. “It's always mental cues, not so much tactical.”

This habit began in 2019 after a disappointing junior event in Milan, Italy. Following a straight-set loss, Navarro spent 1 1/2 hours discussing the match with her coach, determined never to feel mentally unprepared again.

“I said to myself, ‘I never want to feel like this again. Unprepared mentally.' Going into the French Open that year, I was really nervous,” she recalled, “and I just felt like I needed to get my thoughts down.”

Her approach proved effective as she reached the junior final at the French Open, defeating notable players such as Zheng Qinwen before losing to Leylah Fernandez.

Navarro continues to advance in major tournaments, demonstrating the effectiveness of her mental strategies.

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