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Tennis ace becomes top-ranked pickleball player

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Posted at 3:07 PM, Aug 03, 2022

MILWAUKEE, Wisc. (TMJ4) — Zane Navratil won three high school tennis titles in the state of Wisconsin. He's since switched sports and become the No. 1 pickleball player in the world.

Navratil said his dad introduced him to the sport during his winter break in 2013.

"I was off of school for a couple of weeks," Navratil said. “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 officially switched to pickleball.

"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 said. “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.”

Pickleball has become Navratil's full-time job. He recently earned $25,000 with a win.

"I never had a $25,000 payout as an auditor, that’s for sure," Navratil said. "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."

This story was originally reported by Lance Allan on