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UW-Whitewater tennis player becomes number one pickleball player in the world

"I figured 30 years from now if I didn’t take this leap, even if I were to fail, I know that I would have regretted it."
Posted at 6:33 PM, Aug 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-16 10:25:20-04

MILWAUKEE — Zane Navratil won three high school tennis titles in the state of Wisconsin. But it's becoming number one in the world and switching to the sport of pickleball that has rocketed him to a whole new level.

"Navratil without the ova," Zane Navratil says.

Navratil says that with a laugh, just like his start in pickleball.

"I was a bit of a tennis snob," Navratil says.

That was until his dad introduced him to it during his winter break in 2013.

"I was off of school for a couple of weeks," Navratil says. “He said come play pickleball. I said no, pickleball is for old people. I get out there and they’re hitting these soft shots and I think I’m just going to wipe the floor with them. I got crushed by these guys named Harvey, Lyle, and Al. No offense, but I don't know anyone age 26 named Harvey, Lyle, and Al."

After playing tennis at UW-Whitewater and working an accounting job, Navratil made the switch.

"I figured 30 years from now if I didn’t take this leap, even if I were to fail, I know that I would have regretted it," Navratil says. “Fortunately it’s worked out through a lot of work and a lot of luck, for sure, but I’m happy to be doing this as my full-time job.”

It's paid off. Navratil is now ranked number one in the world.

“I’m going to try and hold it for as long as I can," Navratil says. “The sport is evolving so quickly but I’m going to hold on and try to stay on top as long as I can, but inevitably it won’t be forever, no matter what sport you’re in.”

And recently, he made $25,000 with a win.

"I never had a $25,000 payout as an auditor that’s for sure," Navratil jokes. "There’s prize money, but it’s not necessarily reliable. There (are) other things between sponsorships and teaching where you can make a very, very good living playing pickleball. A living I never thought I could make as a 26-year-old."

Navratil might be able to use his accounting degree at some point if pickleball and the prizes involved continue to grow as they have recently.

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