There is a stark contrast between this week’s APP field in Cincinnati and last week in St. Louis. While the Tier 1 St. Louis APP featured one of the better APP field’s we have seen to date, we have one of 2022’s thinner fields in Cincinnati, including the women’s doubles draw that only features 5 teams so one of us only gets 2 women’s doubles teams. There isn’t just limited high-end talent in Cincinnati, but there is limited middle tier talent across all the divisions. It is a weird to see how strong the women’s singles field is compared to such a weak women’s doubles division. The most interesting person in this field is Lauren Stratman, who is currently registered to play singles and mixed doubles with Julian Arnold. Stratman, a PPA contracted player, participated and won a random moneyball tournament today with Julian that featured more than 8 players – the number 8 is significant as we understand the PPA’s exclusivity allows players to participate in pickleball events not exceeding 8 players. What is going on here? We can’t say for sure, but something must be happening for Stratman to suddenly be playing two non-PPA events in the span of one week. She was previously registered for an APP event last month but ended up withdrawing last minute. Is Lauren Stratman another player to add to the list of PPA players who are playing non-PPA events? As always, something to monitor.
Slim is still up 6 on the year after the double header week was split 1-1. Lots of tournaments still to go but the gap has flip-flopped between 5 up and 6 up for Slim over the past month and a half. Gritty won the toss and elected to pick second.
(1) Zane Navratil (Slim)
(2) Jade Kawamoto / Michelle Esquivel (Gritty)
(3) Zane Navratil / Andrei Daescui (Gritty)
(4) Parris Todd (Slim)
(5) Andrea Koop / DJ Young (Slim)
Slim – There were a few different ways I could’ve gone with the first pick, but after a bit of a slow start to the year Zane seems to have his serve hopping and be dialed in with his singles game, so I took him first. Parris Todd is coming off of her first gold medal at the PPA in St. Louis and I like her to repeat this weekend. Andrea Koop and DJ Young are my favorites to win mixed this weekend, though DJ’s inconsistency always concerns me.
Gritty – I chose to pick 2nd because I felt like the women’s singles and mixed divisions were the most up in the air. It’s a soft women’s field. As long as Esquivel is healthy, Kawamoto and Esquivel should cruise to a win – although Esquivel can be a bit of a wild card on a week to week basis. I do like Mario/DJ as a team, but I felt like Zane and Andrei are too steady overall, especially with Andrei getting regular tournament action these days.
(6) Lauren Stratman / Julian Arnold (Gritty)
(7) Anna Bright (Gritty)
(8) Parris Todd / Regina Franco (Slim)
(9) Salome Devidze (Slim)
(10) Susannah Barr / Lina Padegimaite (Gritty)
(11) Julian Arnold (Gritty)
Slim – I continue to buy Parris Todd stock, she is improving every week and Regina Franco is also continuing to find her form, so I like them for a top two finish this weekend. Salome Devidze should find the podium this weekend, but picking her over Rachael James was a tough decision.
Gritty – I had Andrea/DJ ahead of Stratman/Arnold, but not by much. Arnold is scary in mixed as we saw last week in North Carolina and Stratman is just very good – they form a strong duo. Anna Bright is another player who could easily find herself on top of the podium. She has lost to Parris twice recently but I’m concerned with Parris not doing any better about getting to the net. It’s not tennis. I had Barr/Padegimaite as my 2nd women’s doubles team so I’m quite happy to get them at this spot – Padegimaite may be slightly underrated. Maybe? I took Arnold over Sherry. Slim said the disrespect to Sherry needs to be noted after Sherry beat Julian in North Carolina, but my worry comes from Sherry going through an entire double elimination bracket in one day. As much as we love Sherry, he only has three pro singles podiums to his name. I’ll be happy to eat my words if he proves me wrong.
(12) Mario Barrientos / DJ Young (Slim)
(13) Ryan Sherry (Slim)
(14) Jade Kawamoto / Zane Navratil (Gritty)
(15) Rachael James (Gritty)
(16) Hayden Patriquin / Julian Arnold (Slim)
(17) Regina Franco / Andrei Daescu (Slim)
Slim – I have Mario Barrientos and DJ Young as the clear number two men’s team this weekend, but I really need an engaged DJ to show up all weekend having him in mixed as well. Apparently Gritty has no respect for Ryan Sherry, as he takes Julian Arnold ahead of him, after Sherry beat Julian for the gold medal, last weekend, so I happily take Sherry here. Julian Arnold had his breakout weekend last weekend in North Carolina, and I kind of like Hayden Patriquin to have his this weekend in a thin field, so I take him here. Andrei Dasecu and Regina Franco are an unproven commodity in mixed but I really like the upside potential here.
Gritty – It’s a strong top 2 in mixed, but Jade/Zane should be locked into that #3 spot with upside for more. I was quite surprised Slim took Devidze over both Rachael James and Stratman. I really liked what I saw from James in her match with Irina last week and would be surprised if she lost going heads up with Devidze. I wouldn’t be as surprised to see James lose to Stratman.
(18) Altaf Merchant / John Cincola (Gritty)
(19) Michelle Esquivel / Rob Cassidy (Gritty)
(20) Lauren Stratman (Slim)
(21) John Cincola (Slim)
(22) CJ Klinger / Rob Cassidy (Gritty)
(23) Rachel Rettger / Arielle Butler (Gritty)
Slim – With Lauren Stratman only playing mixed and singles this weekend, I like her to be motivated in singles this week and possibly surprise some people to find the podium. In a mens singles field that isn’t quite as deep as most of the recent ones I think John Cincola could reach a podium.
Gritty – I liked Altaf/Cincola ahead of Hayden/Julian so I’m good getting them here. Cincola’s doubles results haven’t been strong recently but I think Arnold’s lack of experience comes through most in men’s doubles. I kind of wish I had gone Cincola in singles here at this spot but I took Esquivel/Cassidy, who I thought were the better bet over Franco/Daescu to get a podium. Slim seems to be higher on Franco than I am right now. Klinger/Cassidy just came away with 2nd place in a fairly strong moneyball field, losing to Stratman/Arnold in the final. There’s only one women’s team that has any chance of upsetting the top 3 and that would be Rettger/Butler.
(24) Susannah Barr / Nick Petterson (Slim)
(25) Brendan Long / Johnny Goldberg (Slim)
(26) Jack Foster (Gritty)
(27) Mario Barrientos (Gritty)
(28) Erica Frantz / Amanda Hendry (Slim)
(29) Lina Padegimaite (Gritty)
Slim – Susannah Barr is one of the best mixed players in this field, it will be interesting to see how she does here with fellow Boise pickleballer, Nick Petterson. I looked at a few different men’s doubles teams with my last pick here, but Brendon Long and Johnny Goldberg just get more pros wins than the other guys on the board so I went with them.
Gritty – This is definitely a field I could see Foster breaking through in. He should be able to beat any of the guys outside of Zane. It was close between Barrientos and FAD for my final singles choice, but I go with the weird stylings of Barrientos. Mario got 4th at a PPA event in singles earlier this year and somehow gets good wins consistently. The only thing is that FAD is going to have a far better seed than Barrientos will have. My last pick is Lina Padegimaite who almost certainly doesn’t have the ability to conquer a podium in Cincinnati.
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