Beer City Open – Fantasy Draft Preview

The Beer City Open is one of the most unique tournaments out there considering what the pro pickleball landscape is in 2023. It has that build it and they will come Andrea Koop and the Grand Rapids pickleball scene has grown this tournament into an event that pros want to attend. Unlike the US Open, there must have been enough demand from pros for the PPA to allow their players to compete in this non-tour affiliated event. It begs the question of how these decisions are made by the PPA in terms of what their pros are allowed to participate in.

As we discussed on the first episode of the NML Pickleball Podcast (listen and subscribe on Apple, Spotify and YouTube if you haven’t already), we have heard rumblings that there are PPA Pros who have not been happy about the PPA either blocking them from playing in, or blocking then subsequently permitting them to play in, pickleball exhibitions not affiliated with the PPA. We don’t have any information with respect to the reasoning behind the PPA’s decisions to block or permit their players to attend unaffiliated events, but it is notable that Beer City found its way into the acceptable bucket. The weird mix of PPA and APP players should make Beer City a fun one for pickleball fans.

Gritty is now only 1 up on the year in a barn burner of a fantasy season. Gritty won the toss and elected to pick first. 

(1) JW Johnson / Dylan Frazier (Gritty) 

(2) Jorja Johnson / JW Johnson (Slim) 

(3) Jackie Kawamoto / Jade Kawamoto (Slim) 

(4) Connor Garnett (Gritty) 

(5) Judit Castillo (Gritty) 

Gritty – JW and Dylan are the clear best team in the entire field. I wonder if the kids could have some issues with motivation this weekend, but they should be too good for the rest of the field. The top singles teams are questionable here. Men’s singles could go any which way, but I’ll take my chances with Garnett, who keeps improving. And I know Judit Castillo lost to Irina last week, but I’d rather bet on the hungry up and comer rather than the wily veteran. 

Slim – It will be interesting to see if the Johnson sibling can dominate this mixed field, they should based on talent, but their biggest issue seems to be consistency. I like the Kawamotos to take gold this weekend in women’s doubles, which I realize could be slightly controversial.

(6) Jaume Martinez Vich (Slim) 

(7) Andrea Koop / Jessie Irvine (Slim) 

(8) Lauren Stratman / Jorja Johnson (Gritty) 

(9) Pablo Tellez / Federico Staksrud (Gritty) 

(10) Andrei Daescu / Andrea Koop (Slim) 

(11) Andrei Daescu / Rob Nunnery (Slim) 

Gritty – I think the women’s doubles draw could go any of 3 ways for the gold. Unfortunately, I only scooped up 1 of the 3 teams, and it is the most volatile of the 3 teams. On the other hand, Stratman/Jorja have more firepower than any team out there and it’ll be intriguing to get a taste of what this new Texas Ranchers duo has to offer. If any team is going to knock JW/Dylan off the gold medal stand, it should be Pablo/Fed, who are coming off a Championship Sunday appearance in Denver. Hot conditions in Michigan this weekend could be helpful to them.

Slim – Jaume Martinez Vich is rising fast up the singles rankings. I will be curious to see if he can take advantage of a field missing most of the big names. I’m curious to see how Jessie and Andrea do this weekend. You could argue that on paper they are the team to beat in women’s doubles, but neither player has been playing their best pickleball of late. I went with Andrei Daescu twice this weekend, in both men’s doubles and mixed doubles. As we discussed on the podcast, Andrei is probably the most interesting player to watch this weekend, as we seldom get to see him play PPA players, outside of MLP.

(12) Jessie Irvine / Zane Navratil (Gritty) 

(13) Zane Navratil / Jay Devilliers (Gritty) 

(14) Jay Devilliers (Slim) 

(15) Irina Tereschenko (Slim) 

(16) Hurricane Tyra Black (Gritty) 

(17) Lacy Schneemann / Hurricane Tyra black (Gritty) 

Gritty – Zane Navratil’s mixed game is underrated and we get to see Irvine play with someone that is not Devilliers or Koller. Irvine’s stock is falling and if she can’t get a podium in this field, the alarm bells will be ringing. Zane should be a good fit next to Devilliers and these hot conditions will be good for the way Zane counters. With what I assume will be a full double elim bracket, I like that Black is happy to play a backdraw. Her singles has come slower than her tennis background would suggest but the athleticism is elite. Schneemann is coming off a Sunday appearance herself and this partnership should help give us some idea where Tyra’s doubles game stacks up.

Slim – Nobody grinds a back draw the way Jay Devilliers does, so I am actually high on his upside this weekend, because you know even if he gets knocked down to the loser’s bracket, he is going to keep battling. Irina is coming off a silver medal last weekend in Denver so can she put together back to back singles performances?

(18) Irina Tereschenko / Rianna Valdes (Slim) 

(19) Jorja Johnson (Slim) 

(20) Lauren Stratman / Dylan Frazier (Gritty) 

(21) Irina Tereschenko / Federico Staksrud (Gritty) 

(22) Milan Rane (Slim) 

(23) Pablo Tellez (Slim) 

Gritty – I just wrote about how I think Frazier’s mixed could be overrated but here I am taking him at this spot in the draft with Stratman. Another new Ranchers duo debut! The Irina/Staksrud pick is a bet on Fed being able to get really good mixed results with lesser partners. 

Slim – The mixed up partnerships are the best part of the weekend and I will be monitoring closely to see how Irina Tereschenko and Rianna Valdes do this weekend. Rianna is a player on the rise, and she seems to be able to play the left or right, so she and Irina, may be able to surprise some people. Jorja Johnson seldom plays singles these days, and it has been a while since she got a result in singles, but this singles draw just isn’t nearly as deep as most draws we have been seeing recently in either pro bracket.

(24) Dylan Frazier (Gritty) 

(25) Milan Rane / Rachel Rohrabacher (Gritty) 

(26) DJ Young / Callan Dawson (Slim) 

(27) Rafa Hewett / Jackie Kawamoto (Slim) 

(28) Zane Navratil (Gritty) 

(29) Sydney Sonday (Gritty)

(30) Connor Garnett / Rafa Hewett (Slim)

Gritty – Dylan hasn’t had a really good singles result in quite some time so I don’t feel amazing about taking him here. Rachel Rohrabacher did not have a good start to the 2nd half of the year in Denver so I’m hoping she can make an upset run with Milan Rane at Beer City. Speaking of not having singles results, Zane Navratil is a desperation pick at this slot as is Sydney Sonday, who hasn’t been playing many tournaments recently. I probably should have gone with Ava Ignatowich for my final women’s singles slot, who is playing more tournaments and getting actual win in pro draws.

Slim – DJ Young and Callan Dawson are back together, and it would not be shocking at all to see them make a run this weekend. Their games always have fit very well together. The band is back! Rafa Hewett has one of the best women in this tournament, in Jackie Kawamoto, so it is a big opportunity for him to showcase his kamikaze mixed game. We will also get to see Rafa with his new MLP teammate, Connor Garnett, so it will be interesting to see how they do together. I would expect an ultra aggressive brand of pickleball from those two players.

Agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments below or email us at Follow us on Twitter, Instagram, Threads and Facebook! NML also has a podcast now, which you can find on Spotify, Apple and YouTube.

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