We are on the final leg of this four consecutive week Florida pro pickleball swing. The Florida fields for these APP tournaments have been quite strong and it will be interesting to see how that plays out as the year goes along. Looking at the men’s field, no matter how you slice it, the top 3 teams in this APP tournament are probably the #3, #4 and #5 teams in some order at most PPA events. You take out Ben/Collin and Matt/Riley from those fields, and it makes a big difference on the men’s side in terms of perceived depth. Thomas Wilson and AJ Koller are slated to play at least the bigger APP events in New York and St. Louis coming up. The comparisons will be an ongoing exercise for as long as these two tours are competing against one another.
On the women’s side, the rising star, Anna Bright, has had quite a change in circumstances as a lot of people in pickleball have seen. Two and a half weeks ago, Bright was set to play this Delray tournament with Milan Rane and Shiv Krishnaswamy. We’re not sure of how this situation changed but she’s now partnered with Regina Franco and Dylan Frazier. That’s an upgrade in level of partners for Bright, especially in mixed.
DUPR is announcing battle of the sexes. JW is playing with an illegal paddle (just kidding!). And we’re only two and a half months through the year. There’s so much more to come.
Slim is back at 5 up for the year in Fantasy. Gritty won the toss and elected to pick first.
(1) JW Johnson (Gritty)
(2) Simone Jardim / Andrea Koop (Slim)
(3) Simone Jardim / JW Johnson (Slim)
(4) Dekel Bar / Adam Stone (Gritty)
(5) Jorja Johnson (Gritty)
Gritty – I saw only one thing that could be considered anything close to a sure thing this weekend for a gold medal and that’s JW in singles. The only concern I have is that this will be 4 weekends in a row of tourneys for JW. That’s a lot of pickleball no matter how young you are. Dekel/Adam should be the top men’s team despite JW/Dylan’s silver last weekend, particularly if Frazier is struggling with any back issues. I had Bright in singles over Jorja Johnson after her big breakout in Punta Gorda but Jorja has proven to be the steadier singles player. She deserves the #1 women’s singles spot in this tournament.
Slim – I end up really riding with Simone, which is risky given all of her apparent injuries these days, but I think she has the partners to complement her this week in JW and Andrea. We saw Andrea and Simone team up in Boca earlier this year, and they took gold, and the only team that really pushed them was the Kawamotos. JW and Simone teamed up once last year in Hilton Head and took an impressive gold over Jessie Irvine and Jay Devilliers (they beat them twice). Simone still brings a lot of consistency and when you partner her with players who can really finish points, which JW and Andrea can both do, she is still very tough.
(6) Dylan Frazier / JW Johnson (Slim)
(7) Anna Bright (Slim)
(8) Vivienne David / Dekel Bar (Gritty)
(9) Zane Navratil (Gritty)
(10) Sarah Ansboury / Jorja Johnson (Slim)
(11) Thomas Wilson / AJ Koller (Slim)
Gritty – Bright could very well have another weekend but I was fine with Slim taking Anna Bright in singles who lost to Salome Devidze at the PPA last weekend 15-6. Vivienne and Dekel could easily be considered the #1 mixed team in this tournament so I’m happy to get them here. Zane Navratil has been ultra consistent in singles and in this men’s field he should be a pretty good bet for silver.
Slim – I have to stick to my number one fantasy rule of always betting on JW. I especially have to after he delivered me the W last week. Dylan and JW can beat anybody as we saw with them beating the Johns brothers last week. Taking Anna Bright seventh is a bit of a gamble, but in a women’s singles field that isn’t quite as deep as we have seen the last few weeks, I like the upside. We know she can beat Jorja as we saw in Punta Gorda. Sarah Ansboury and Jorja Johnson looked very solid last week at the PPA, so I like them here. Thomas Wilson and AJ Koller are making their first APP appearances of the year. It will be interesting to see how they do. I like them to make the podium, but can they make it to the gold medal match?
(12) Andrea Koop / Zane Navratil (Gritty)
(13) Michelle Esquivel / Lee Whitwell (Gritty)
(14) Megan Fudge (Slim)
(15) Dylan Frazier (Slim)
(16) Salome Devidze (Gritty)
(17) John Cincola (Gritty)
Gritty – Andrea Koop is arguably the best female in this mixed field and Zane had a nice overall run in Plantation two weeks ago. Esquivel and Whitwell had to be the #3 team for me on the women’s side. The power of Esquivel should pair well with the steadiness of Whitwell. Salome Devidze has a pro tennis background and it just seems like her level dips as the day gets longer. She’s good though. While Cincola’s results have not been good since his big APP gold at the beginning of the year, there’s not enough reliability in this singles field to take anyone ahead of him (I had Cincola over Dylan Frazier, partly due to health concerns).
Slim – Megan Fudge has been putting up pretty consistent singles results for the last month and I like that consistency to earn her a third straight podium in an APP event this weekend. Dylan Frazier is very hit and miss in singles. I am hoping he is on this week.
(18) Anna Bright / Dylan Frazier (Slim)
(19) Anna Bright / Regina Franco Goldberg (Slim)
(20) Lauren Stratman / Julian Arnold (Gritty)
(21) Andrei Daescu / Zane Navratil (Gritty)
(22) Austin Gridley / DJ Young (Slim)
(23) Lee Whitwell / DJ Young (Slim)
Gritty – I’m a big fan of Julian Arnold and it seems like forever ago that Stratman/Arnold had their surprising run at the PPA Masters. This is a high upside team that I like a little bit more than Bright/Frazier. I’m also a big fan of Daescu and in Planation Daescu/Navratil had a really solid run together. Gridley/DJ are another scary team that I didn’t like to leave on the board for Slim but the reliability of Daescu/Navratil was something I couldn’t pass up.
Slim – The results haven’t been there for Bright since her breakout performance at Punta Gorda, but I think the talent is still very evidently there, so I am betting on that talent. Bright and Dylan Frazier both have great hands, so they have the potential to beat any team in the mixed field. Bright and Regina is also a partnership with great hands, though I worry Regina is still finding her form. Austin Gridley and DJ Young are an intriguing partnership and one I can imagine other teams in the bracket don’t want to face. DJ Young and Lee Whitwell seem to be practicing a lot together at Dreamland, and I think that chemistry could really help them this week.
(24) Lauren Stratman (Gritty)
(25) Maggie Remynse / Susannah Barr (Gritty)
(26) Julian Arnold (Slim)
(27) Ryan Sherry (Slim)
(28) Vivienne David / Corrine Carr (Gritty)
(29) Kyle Yates / Rob Cassidy (Gritty)
(30) Amanda Hendry (Slim)
Gritty – Slim made a mistake letting Stratman slide, and this very well could be a bronze for her. Slim has all the Bright stock this weekend, which means she is going to take off, but I had Remynse/Barr above Bright/Franco on my big board. I’m still in wait and see mode on Franco who is going to need space to get her timing back. Vivienne David as a right sided player does not fit well with Corrine Carr’s lack of power, but they are clearly the #6 team in this field. In terms of the men’s team, this could have gone a number of ways for my final pick, but I didn’t have much doubt that Yates/Cassidy were the right choice here.
Slim – Julian Arnold has been knocking on the door for a little while now in singles. Could this be the week he breaks through? Ryan Sherry’s results haven’t been great over the last month, but in a singles field that is not quite as deep as some recent ones, I like him to do some damage. I did not know until recently that Amanda Hendry won multiple NCAA field hockey titles at North Carolina.
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