Racine native moves up the professional pickleball world rankings

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Zane Navratil can serve on a pickleball court.

“It’s an addicting game,” said Navratil. “You touch the ball a lot in record time. Pickleball is like a combination of tennis and ping-pong.”

The Racine native has gotten so good that he’s now ranked no. 2 in the world by the Association Pro Pickleball.

“I am very proud of this ranking,” said Navratil. “It’s pretty cool. To be able to tell someone that at the time I was world No. 2 in pickleball, I think that will be a great achievement for the rest of my life.”

How Navratil got to this point requires a trip down memory lane to when he first started the sport as a senior in high school.

“I never really gave the time of day and my dad started playing,” Navratil said. “I got there and got my ass kicked by people three, four times older. I was competitive, so stupidly competitive, I just wanted to beat these people.

“I kept coming back until I could beat those 60, 70 year old Racine guys and fell in love with them in the process.”

“I didn’t think he would be interested,” said Denis Navratil, Zane’s father. “The turn he is taking in his career is a real surprise.”

What also helped Navratil with pickleball were his tennis skills. After all, he was a three-time WIAA Division 2 tennis champion for the Prairie School.

“Lots of snowshoeing and hand-eye coordination skills translate,” said Zane Navratil. “Lots of hits are similar.”

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From initial skepticism to a full-time career, Navratil left his auditor job last July to enter the world of professional pickleball.

“This is an urgent opportunity for me,” said Navratil. “There is only once in my life that I will be able to play at a high level, and that is when I am younger.”

This leap of faith was worth it. Not only is it no. 2 in the world, but Navratil is also competing across the country.

Currently, he’s in Florida competing in the US Open Pickleball Championships – the sport’s biggest tournament. He takes part in five different events: male professional single, male professional double, mixed professional double, professional split age and mixed mixed age.

“If I do well I don’t think it would give me the top spot but it would definitely bring me closer to this place,” Navratil said.

The 25-year-old is also a thriving pickleball instructor, teaching clinics at Banting Park in Waukesha and across the country for those who wish to learn.

For Navratil, it’s a moment of loop.

“After I learned the game and now I am recognized all over the country as someone who innovates with the game (that’s great),” said Navratil.

From now on, the sky is the limit.

“Pickleball is a growing sport and I just want to participate in it for as long as possible,” said Navratil. “I would love to be number 1, I would love to continue all this teaching and expand. Just the opportunity to be a professional athlete is pretty awesome and something I never imagined would happen. ”

Navratil will be hosting a “Learn to Play” event on May 8 and another clinic on May 27 at Banting Park in Waukesha. To learn more about clinics and pickleball, visit facebook.com/ZaneNavratilPickleball.

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