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

Zane Navratil won three high school tennis titles in the state of Wisconsin. But it becomes number one in the world and switches to the sport of pickleball which has taken it to a whole new level.

‘Navratil without the eggs,’ says Daan Navratil.

Navratil says that with a smile, as does his start in pickleball.

“I was a bit of a tennis snob,” says Navratil.

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

“I was off school for a few weeks,” says Navratil. “He said come play pickleball. I said no, pickleball is for old people. I go out and they make soft shots and I think I’m just going to wipe the floor with them. I was crushed by those guys named Harvey, Lyle and Al. No offense, but I don’t know anyone aged 26 named Harvey, Lyle and Al.”

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

“I thought if I didn’t make this leap in 30 years, even if I failed, I know I would have regretted it,” says Navratil. “Luckily it worked out through a lot of work and a lot of luck, but I’m glad I can do this as my full-time job.”

It has paid off. Navratil is now number one in the world.

“I’m going to try to keep it up as long as possible,” says Navratil. “The sport is evolving so fast, but I’m going to persevere and try to stay at the top for as long as possible, but inevitably it won’t be forever, no matter what sport you play.”

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

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

Navratil may one day use his accounting education as a pickleball and the associated prices will continue to grow as they have recently.

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