From the outside looking in, it is no secret that two of the most promising young American players on the WTA Tour came from the collegiate ranks in Emma Navarro (Virginia, 2020-22) and Peyton Stearns (Texas, 2020-22).
As the past two NCAA Singles Champions, Navarro and Stearns are looking to carry the torch for female collegians on tour, moving up the rankings at a pace unseen from newly turned pros since Danielle Collins (Florida & Virginia) began her pro career back in 2016.
Each skyrocketing up the rankings over the past few months, Navarro (No. 120) and Stearns (No. 89) have each handled the transition from the collegiate level to the professional level with grace as they continue to reach new heights in every tournament they play in.
For Navarro, she has already reached the finals of six ITF Women’s World Tour events over her professional career, including winning the Napels 25K as well as the Latvia 60K since turning full-time pro after the 2022 collegiate season.
The former ITA Rookie of the Year and No. 1 ranked collegiate women’s singles player has already taken down six Top-100 players since July, including wins over Caty McNally (No. 73) at the BNP Paribas Open and Cristina Bucsa (No. 82) at the Miami Open.
Ranked No. 236 during the first week of June 2022, Navarro has already climbed over 100 spots in the WTA Singles Rankings and will look to continue her quick climb over the next few months as she continues to impress across various WTA and ITF events.
Similarly, for the Ohio native Stearns, she has reached eight ITF Women’s World Tour finals over her professional career and has won the Rome 60K, Orlando 25K, Florence 25K, and Austin 25K just since September.
Building an impressive resume of victories along the way, Stearns has beaten Varvara Gracheva (No. 60), Rebeka Masarova (No. 92), Rebecca Peterson (No. 76), and Kamilla Rakhimova (No. 90) since turning full-time pro in the summer of 2022.
The 2022 ITA National Player of the Year was ranked No. 508 in the WTA Singles Rankings at the end of June 2022 and has since risen over 400 spots into the Top 100 for the first time in her career after reaching the Finals of the Copa Colsanitas WTA250 event this past week.
This success from both of these players has been a welcomed sight to see from college tennis fans everywhere as they look to join and have joined Danielle Collins (No. 39), Mayar Sherrif (No. 61), and breakout NC State freshman Diana Shnaider (No. 88) as collegiate players in the Top 100 of the WTA Rankings.
Navarro and Stearns make up just two of the many talented players who have passed and who continue to pass through the collegiate ranks year after year. Alongside Ben Shelton on the ATP Tour, these three former collegians have continued to show in their first year on tour the successful pathway to the pros from the collegiate level.
With programs such as the ATP Accelerator Programme in place now at the collegiate level, the ITA hopes to continue to expand the professional opportunities available to all student-athletes, showing that their time in tennis doesn’t have to stop after college.