The second of a 2-part feature on the Nava brothers - Eduardo, Emilio, and Diego. To read Part I, click here.
The COVID-19 pandemic shutdown has forced the cancellation of USTA and ITF Futures and Challenger events in the United States until at least the end of October. So the Nava boys decided that instead of playing on their home turf, they would pack up and get back to work on the clay courts in Europe.
While middle brother Diego, age 21, decided to stay home and train with his Loyola Marymount University teammates, 23-year-old Eduardo and 18-year-old Emilio have seen success in their first tournaments playing doubles together since they teamed up to reach the semifinals at the USC Futures event in January.
The Navas won seven straight doubles matches, including winning the $15,000 Futures title at Sintra, Portugal, before falling in the final at Castelo Branco. The brothers decided not to play the third week at the $25K event in Porto, with Wake Forest University fifth-year player Eduardo instead serving as hitting partner and coach to his younger brother Emilio, who one year ago decided to forego college tennis and turn pro.
“I think we were really positive with each other on the court and individually we stuck to our game regardless of how the matches were going,” said Emilio of playing doubles with Eduardo.
Xóchitl Nava, Emilio's mom and full-time coach, has 10 brothers and sisters and knows more than anyone that siblings don’t always see eye-to-eye on the court, especially on the competitive pro tennis circuit, but was proud her boys played as a team and stayed focused winning those seven of eight matches in their return to tournament play.
“It’s been a long time, and just training, training, training and you want to get out and play some tournaments,” Xóchitl said. “While we were on lockdown we made a gym from some old equipment we had, but it gets repetitive. The boys were able to train, and get fitter. But they needed matches.”
A four-time Grand Slam junior finalist, Emilio, who is currently ranked No. 680 in the world rankings and rising, and Eduardo will next head to a larger $80,000 Challenger in Alicante, Spain. “Then we will see where he is,” Xóchitl said. “If he has done well and played enough rounds, maybe he will come home. If not, he might stay a little longer. It’s a long, long trip. But he’ll be ready to come back as some of some of the events start opening up here.
“It’s not ideal and we’re not the only ones going through this. We have to do the best we can at this time and be patient and be positive and optimistic and make the best of every little opportunity we have. We are a little bit on stand-by, but they are playing tournaments in Europe now so that’s the best we can do.”
Count Marty Woods as a big fan. The executive director of the Pete Brown Foundation, Woods credits Xóchitl and the Nava brothers for their ongoing support of the Foundation's community efforts. “She has donated not only equipment and gear, but more importantly, encouragement to our young juniors," Woods said. "The boys come over and hit with our kids at Harvard Park for an hour, then head back to the Valley. They are so supportive of what we do and such an inspiration to our young players.”
Diego Nava says growing up in Southern California, he and his brothers always had the necessary tennis clothing, shoes, strings and balls to become successful at the sport they loved.
“When I was younger, I didn’t really see how fortunate I was to have all that we had,” Diego said. “Now that I’ve seen how challenging it can be for some who may not have as much, it’s important to me and my brothers to always give back, and we will continue to do so.”
Steve Pratt's columns appear weekly at USTAsocal.com.