Virginia Women’s Tennis: Trio of newcomers add depth for 2020-2021 season
The Virginia women’s tennis team will welcome a trio of newcomers for the 2020-2021 season with the addition of Emma Navarro (Charleston, S.C.), Hibah Shaikh (Teanek, N.J.) and transfer Carson Branstine (Irvine, Calif.).
Navarro reached a career-high of No. 3 in the International Tennis Federation (ITF) junior rankings, while Branstine reached a career-high of No. 4 and Shaikh reached a career-high ranking of No. 103.
“We are thrilled to welcome Emma, Hibah and Carson to the University of Virginia,” said Virginia head coach Sara O’Leary. “The three of them bring tremendous experience on the biggest stages of the sport. Their drive and commitment on the court is matched by their character and success in the classroom. Seeing how they strive for excellence in all aspects of their lives made it clear to us that they will be a perfect fit at UVA.”
Navarro, currently ranked the No.1 recruit in the nation by TennisRecruiting.net, recently went three sets at the Abierto GNP Seguros with American professional Sloane Stephens, who currently holds a world professional ranking of No. 37. In 2019, Navarro competed in all four junior grand slams, reaching the singles semifinals at the Wimbledon Junior Championships, and the finals at the French Open Junior Championships. In doubles, she and her partner won the 2019 French Open Junior Championship, reached the finals at the Australian Open Junior Championships and reached the quarterfinals at the Wimbledon Junior Championships. Navarro is a blue-chip recruit by TennisRecruiting.net and finished 2019 ranked as the No. 3 junior singles player in the world.
Shaikh reached a career-high ITF junior ranking of No. 103. She was a singles semifinalist at the 2020 ITF J2 Valencia Junior Open and advanced to the third round in singles at the 2019 JA Orange Bowl in Plantation, Fla. She also competed in the qualifying draws at the 2020 Australian Open and 2019 US Open Junior Championships. She reached the final rounds of multiple ITF Junior Doubles and Singles Championships. Shaikh is a blue-chip recruit by TennisRecruiting.net.
Branstine was ranked second in the ITA Freshman/Newcomer rankings before taking a redshirt season at the University of Southern California. She has reached a career-high world junior ranking of No. 4. Branstine has also competed in each of the four Junior Grand Slams. In 2017, she and her partner claimed the doubles title at the Australian Open and French Open Junior Championships. She claimed four ITF junior singles titles and five ITF junior doubles titles in her career. Branstine also was a finalist at the 2019 $25k Gatineau, Canada pro event and the $15k Carson, Calif., pro event.
The trio joins a group of five returning players who helped the Cavaliers finish the year as the No. 11 team in the ITA Women’s Team rankings, with a season-high ranking of No. 9. The squad posted wins over six top-25 opponents in 2020 on the way to a 10-5 record before the season was cut short. Virginia also won the ITA Kickoff regional hosted by the University of Kansas to advance to the ITA National Fall Championships for the first time since the 2016 season.
Information from Virginia Athletics