Just because the PPA Tour is off this week does not mean that we do not have pro pickleball to watch. The APP is back in action from Daytona Beach, Florida. There is undoubtedly a clear discrepancy in the talent level between the pro tours in 2023, but the APP draws still have some quality talent in the mix. The draws are also massive for the APP this weekend to the point where the APP is putting in qualifiers for certain events. Unfortunately, it appears the APP is sticking with their choice to only stream on Saturday and Sunday and, even worse, it will only be available on ESPN+. Shockingly, our view is that streaming on a provider a small percentage of pickleball fans have access to for half the tournament is a poor choice. Having a basic, no commentator stream would undoubtedly be a better alternative than no stream at all. If a pickleball hits a paddle at an APP tournament, but no one hears it, does it make a sound?
For the first time in a long time, Gritty is in the lead for this competitive 2-person fantasy pickleball league. Slim is down 1 on the year and we’ll see if he can find his way back to even Steven early in the year.
(2) Hunter Johnson (Slim)
(3) Parris Todd (Slim)
(4) Parris Todd / Hunter Johnson (Gritty)
(5) Andrei Daescu / Kyle Yates (Gritty)
Gritty – Simone/Parris are the obvious number 1 pick in this draft as they shouldn’t face anything in the way of stiff competition. I can’t believe this is good for Parris’ long-term development to be in situations where she isn’t pushed to be the best player that she can be but I also don’t expect this will last anything close to the entire year either. That’s pure speculation though. Parris/Hunter have proven to be the best mixed team out there but there is some competition in this field that won’t make it a cake walk. Similarly to the mixed field, Andrei/Kyle are the best team but there are teams in the field that should make them work for a gold medal.
Slim – Hunter Johnson and Parris Todd are the best singles players playing APP events, provided they are both healthy. I like both of them to take gold in their singles event. Hunter Johnson has been on a tear recently.
(6) Simone Jardim / Andrei Daescu (Slim)
(7) Salome Devidze (Slim)
(8) Megan Fudge / Susannah Barr (Gritty)
(9) Yates Johnson (Gritty)
(10) Joey Farias / Andreas Siljestrom (Slim)
(11) Rob Nunnery / Eden Lica (Slim)
Gritty – Outside of the top team, nothing is certain in this women’s field. I was about to call Megan Fudge a veteran when I realized she hasn’t been part of the pro game for even a year. Nevertheless, Fudge carries herself like a veteran and she should be a steady foil to Susannah Barr’s style of play. Yates Johnson was beat by Medina Alvarez in Punta Gorda in the winners bracket before getting revenge in the bronze match so I may be giving Yates too much credit but I like the guy with more experience.
Slim – Simone and Andrei are a top two mixed team this weekend, and Andrei’s mixed game continues to improve. Salome Devidze has proven she can win in singles fields like this one and this one is a fairly deep APP one given the circumstances. I think Farias/Siljestrom and Nunnery/Lica are clearly the second and third best mixed teams in some order so I figured better go back-to-back with them. However, I have always had concerns about Farias’s dedication and backing a guy that isn’t afraid to tie one on before a Championship Sunday is worrying.
(12) Megan Fudge (Gritty)
(13) Bobbi Oshiro / Lee Whitwell (Gritty)
(14) Jhonnatan Medina Alvarez (Slim)
(15) Susannah Barr / Rob Nunnery (Slim)
(16) Stefan Auvergne / Brendon Long (Gritty)
(17) Alix Truong / Stefan Auvergne (Gritty)
Gritty – Megan Fudge is capable of beating both Todd and Devidze on the right day in singles. Oshiro is coming off a big PPA weekend but her women’s results have not always been consistent when she doesn’t have the right partner. This Whitwell partnership is not a perfect fit with Oshiro but they are the 3rd best team on paper in this field. Stefan Auvergne impressed mightily at MLP and I think he and the always underrated Long have a real shot to sneak onto the podium this weekend. This is the type of podium that could go a long way for Brendon Long for putting Challenger teams on notice. I double down here with Auvergne in mixed with Alix Truong. Auvergne is the best male left in this field and he can move the needle at this level in mixed.
Slim – Jhonnatan Medina Alvarez made the podium at the first APP of the year and I like him to get back there again this weekend. He is clearly someone who puts in the work off the court. Punta Gorda probably didn’t go as planned for the Nunnery/Barr partnership, but they seemed to be starting to find their form at the Boca tournament. Their talent is too much to pass up on in this field.
(18) Jake Kusmider (Slim)
(19) Greg Dow / Anderson Scarpa (Slim)
(20) Judit Castillo Gargallo (Gritty)
(21) Jenna Hessert (Gritty)
(22) Bobbi Oshiro / Brendon Long (Slim)
(23) Megan Charity / Ewa Radzikowska (Slim)
Gritty – It’s quite a world when I’m watching Judit Castillo Gargallo play Jenna Hessert in the 5th place draw on that sad PPA court #2 stream with zero spectators last weekend but that’s exactly what I was doing. Castillo Gargallo looks like she can play as she beat Jorja Johnson, Lina Padegimaite and Jenna Hessert in the back draw before going down 15-4 to Brooke Buckner. Hessert can play as well and she has some experience for this women’s singles field that will serve her well – she did not look out of place last weekend against Anna Leigh and has some good wins to her name previously.
Slim – Jake Kusmider had an 0-2 last weekend at the PPA Desert Ridge, losing to Rettenmaier and Doerner, but he is a serious podium threat with his talent. Greg Dow and Anderson Scarpa are a solid team, who aren’t going to give teams many opportunities, but they may lack enough offence as a pair to beat the top teams. Brendon Long will be an interesting guy to watch this weekend, as he plays with Auvergne and Oshiro. He could be a MLP shuffle draft target for a few teams. I couldn’t pass up Ewa Radzikowska in women’s doubles at this point. The Megan Charity partnership is not confidence inspiring but Radzikowska showed at MLP she is the real deal. Ewa has the ability to carry a partnership and this may have been high, but I’m betting on the talent.
(24) John Cincola (Gritty)
(25) Hunter Johnson / Yates Johnson (Gritty)
(26) Milan Rane / Shelby Bates (Slim)
(27) Alix Truong / Monica Paolicelli (Slim)
(28) Anderson Scarpa (Gritty)
(29) Shelby Bates / Kyle Yates (Gritty)
(30) Allie Kiick (Slim)
Gritty – It has been a while since we have seen John Cincola on a podium. He is another year older and no longer has a spin serve, but I think in this field he’s a good bet for a podium. I’m still not sure what this Johnson twin partnership is. Hunter is legitimately good but I’m not sold on Yates, and I don’t know if they are a natural fit together. They should be in the mix this weekend regardless. Anderson Scarpa had his best pro singles effort last weekend at the PPA, getting 5th in that new back draw format they have. With my last pick, I went with the rhyming pair of Shelby Bates and Kyle Yates, but there were a number of other teams I could have gone with. Ewa Radzikowska and Marshall Brown were probably the upside pick with my last selection. The last time we saw them was at the Houston APP where both players looked good together. Marshall Brown is stronger than most people know from the limited I have seen and Radzikowska is arguably the 2nd best woman in this field.
Slim – Milan Rane and Shelby Bates could find a podium this weekend together. Truong/Paolicelli are likely limited in terms of upside but these are two Challenger players that should be able to make people work. Allie Kiick may not be quite ready yet, but if she keeps working on her pickleball game it isn’t going to take her long to get there, so I’ll keep betting on the upside.
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