As much as we may want to keep the historical majors as the biggest events of the year, sometimes history is not enough to keep tradition alive. There are a few things in golf and tennis that differentiate the majors from every other tournament, with the most important things being the biggest prize money and best players in attendance. This will be the 2nd year in a row that the PPA Championships will be one of the bigger events of the calendar year. We have a lot of best in attendance, including a Hailey’s Comet rarity appearance from Zane Navratil at a PPA event. Still, there are a good chunk of top players missing, especially on the female side, like Andrea Koop, Jorja Johnson, Susannah Barr and Lauren Stratman. Missing players is the reality of the situation when we have two pro tours and it’s not that long a list of missing players in all the draws considering the APP has the Alabama Open this weekend too.
The size of these draws has been talked about quite a bit. The singles draw this weekend is 75 teams, which surpasses that crazy draw at the APP World Pickleball Open at the end of 2021. Probably as a result of criticism, they have split the players outside the top 48 to have a play-in draw starting at 7:30 am, but 48 is still a big main draw. The logistics of the way pickleball events are currently being run may not allow the tours to have play-in events the day before for every stop, but finding a way for their major events to have play-ins beyond a certain numbers of teams seems like a necessity at this point. This Vegas event features more questionable teams in a pro bracket than any tournament of the year that we can recall. The combination of a giant event being in Las Vegas means pickleball enthusiasts are happy to throw $120 bucks or so at an event to probably go 0-2 or 1-2. It just feels wrong to have as many teams as there are that don’t belong in a pro bracket at a major event, and it’s not good for the pro players to have to grind through that many matches in singles. No free matches in a top 48 at all either.
Slim is up 4 on the year and had the first pick in this draft. We’ll do our monthly disclaimer that these are not our picks. This is a fantasy draft with no redundancy in choices and we get points for getting podium teams/players (3 for gold, 2 for silver and 1 for bronze).
(1) Anna Leigh Waters / Ben Johns (Slim)
(2) Anna Leigh Waters / Leigh Waters (Gritty)
(3) Anna Leigh Waters (Gritty)
(4) JW Johnson (Slim)
(5) Ben Johns / Collin Johns (Slim)
Slim – Anna Leigh and Ben when focused appear to be on another level than their competition. With Parris Todd set to play singles this week, I felt like they were a safer pick than Anna Leigh in singles. With the fourth pick, I went with JW Johnson, who I believe is going to be very focused this weekend, as I think he is looking to make a statement with his game playing these last couple of PPAs. Ben and Collin have shown they are vulnerable this year, but they are still the most consistent men’s doubles team out there.
Gritty – Without Anna Bright and Jessie Irvine teaming up, I like the Waters to take another title together. Yes, Parris Todd is back, but she also hasn’t played a singles tournament in a few months. Todd didn’t look all that rusty in her first tournament back at the APP Atlanta Metro, but I need to see her play some singles before I’m picking her ahead of Anna Leigh in singles.
(6) Matt Wright / Riley Newman (Gritty)
(7) Parris Todd (Gritty)
(8) Ben Johns (Slim)
(9) Jessie Irvine / Jay Devilliers (Slim)
(10) Lucy Kovalova / Callie Smith (Gritty)
(11) Catherine Parenteau / Lea Jansen (Gritty)
Slim – Ben Johns might not reign supreme in singles anymore, but he could still be the best singles player in the world. I think he is likely to get a good draw this weekend considering everything that is going on – his struggles and other disgruntled PPA players. Jessie and Jay are one of the most consistent and proven teams in mixed doubles, they are the #2 team with Catherine and Riley split up.
Gritty – I think Ben/Collin have to be the #1 team, but that match in Atlanta could have gone a different way if Matt/Riley close out game 1 after being up 10-1. It will probably be hot in Las Vegas, which is not ideal weather for Matt/Riley. Parris Todd has to be the #2 female in singles despite not having played in a few months. Slim had Anna/Parris as his #2 team in women’s, but I need to see it from those two before I’m putting them ahead of the established PPA teams. I think he’s giving the Bright/Todd partnership too much credit. They could be the #2 or even #1 team in 3 months. Not right now though, for me.
(12) JW Johnson / Dekel Bar (Slim)
(13) Catherine Parenteau / JW Johnson (Slim)
(14) Federico Staksrud (Gritty)
(15) Lea Jansen (Gritty)
(16) James Ignatowich (Slim)
(17) Dylan Frazier / Zane Navratil (Slim)
Slim – My number one rule is still don’t bet against JW Johnson, so I stick to it here, taking him in men’s doubles with Dekel Bar and in mixed with Catherine Parenteau. JW and Dekel when playing together this year have probably slightly underperformed, but you can’t deny the talent. It is going to be very interesting to see how the first time partnership of Catherine and JW do this weekend. Lights out potential for that mixed pairing, but there may not be enough initiation between the two of them against the best teams. I worry about James Ignatowich’s fitness a bit, now that he is in school, especially in a large field like this, but the upside is too high to pass up at 16. It sounds like Iggy is putting in the work though after his comments on the Pickleball Studio podcast. It will be interesting to see how Dylan Frazier and Zane Navratil play together, I’ll be curious whether Dylan is on the right or left side – I am expecting left but we’ll see.
Gritty – Federico Staksrud is the #3 player in men’s singles right now. His consistency is the best and he was a point away from beating Ben Johns in Atlanta in the back draw. The only thing I worry about from Lea Jansen in singles is her health as the #3 slot. I think she’s clearly the right pick even though she had a close match against Devidze the last time out. Jansen’s court coverage at the net is still the best in women’s singles. There’s about a 99.38% chance that Anna Leigh avoids Parris Todd on her half of the draw so we could see a Jansen vs. Todd semi-final.
(18) Lucy Kovalova / Matt Wright (Gritty)
(19) Jay Devilliers / Tyson McMuffin (Gritty)
(20) Parris Todd / Anna Bright (Slim)
(21) Callie Smith (Slim)
(22) Lindsey Newman / Riley Newman (Gritty)
(23) Tyson McGuffin (Gritty)
Slim – I was ecstatic that Gritty let Anna/Parris fall to me. I actually had them as the second women’s doubles team on my board. I think what they might lack in experience should largely be made up for with their hand speed and power. I hope Callie Smith rides the momentum of her silver medal performance in Ohio to another podium this weekend. I am always in on Callie’s singles game!
Gritty – Lucy/Matt have been trending down, but they will get the benefit of a top 2 seed in this mixed field that does not feature Catherine/Riley together. Jay/Tyson’s play, on the other hand, has been trending up. It’s a deeper field with Dekel/JW added to the mix, but I think Jay/Tyson are the best of the rest in terms of PPA teams right now. Lindsey/Riley are always dangerous together even if I am worried that Lindsey is not playing all that much pickleball these days. Tyson McGuffin as the 5th male at this point is not bad value, but you have to expect Tyson is going to find himself with a brutal draw. Ben has lost his last two tournaments, it’s a deep singles field with nowhere to really hide, and Tyson called out the PPA publicly regarding their inability to participate in MLP. Mr. Pardoe cannot be happy with Tyson this week.
(24) Salome Devidze (Slim)
(25) Anna Bright (Slim)
(26) Callan Dawson / Tyler Loong (Gritty)
(27) Callie Smith / AJ Koller (Gritty)
(28) Jessie Irvine / Lindsey Newman (Slim)
(29) Irina Tereschenko / Lacy Schneemann (Slim)
(30) Dylan Frazier (Gritty)
Slim – I took a gamble in women’s singles and decided to draft both Salome Devidze and Anna Bright over Catherine Parenteau. Catherine has been struggling to get results lately in singles, but a lot of that has to do with the fact she has been running into Salome, who seems to be a particularly tough match up for her. I don’t love the upside of Jessie Irvine/ Lindsey Newman but the consistency and defense is too great too pass up at this point in the draft. I decided to go with Irina/Lacy with the last women’s doubles spot, as Lacy has continued to impress. There were a couple of other teams in the mix for the last women’s spot like the Brascia’s, Dizon/Jones and Gaytan-Leach/Etta Wright.
Gritty – I leave AJ/Thomas undrafted even though they beat Callan/Tyler a couple of tournaments ago quite easily. I just think in this field that Callan/Tyler have a better chance at that bronze with their recent consistency. Callie/AJ are the classic #6 mixed pick for these PPAs. There are a bunch of really good mixed teams in this field not selected though – Bright/Loong, Leigh Waters/Tyson, Mary Brascia/Staksrud, Jansen/Wilson, David/Navratil, Todd/Frazier and even Maggie Brascia/Ignatowich at this point. My last selection was down to Frazier and Hunter Johnson. I went with Frazier, but I know a case could easily be made for Hunter with that last spot. Look at the strong group in singles that went undrafted for this PPA – Zane Navratil, Tyler Loong, Jay Devilliers, Yates Johnson, and Christian Alshon.
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*This article has been edited to correct that Anna Bright and Parris Todd have played a tournament together previously – USAP Newport in July