It’s the year end tournament for the PPA and we have some big draws to deal with. Most everyone in pickleball that is anyone is in this tournament, which makes capping the podiums a little more difficult, especially with all the weird results happening these days. Historically, there are the 3 majors – US Open, TOC and Nationals – but you wonder if either of the year end tourneys from the pro tours will eventually replace or be considered a major as well. Usually majors have to be spread throughout the year as is the case with tennis and golf. However, with the prize money that comes with these finale tournaments, it is inevitably going to draw most of the best players in the world. One thing that is for sure is that it makes for exciting pickleball.
Slim is 4 up on the year and makes the 2021 comeback near impossible, but we’ll keep on with the fantasy draft previews no matter what. Gritty won the toss and chose to go 2nd.
(1) Ben Johns (Slim)
(2) Ben Johns / Matt Wright (Gritty)
(3) Anna Leigh Waters (Gritty)
(4) Simone Jardim / Ben Johns (Slim)
(5) Simone Jardim / Lucy Kovalova (Slim)
Slim – I feel like Ben is going to be motivated this week for the PPA Championships, so with that in mind, I took him number one overall in singles. I hope that motivation carries over to mixed doubles, where I took Ben and Simone, but Ben has been looking less than fully engaged in mixed lately, but they are still clearly the best team on paper. The fifth pick was the toughest for me, and I went with Simone and Lucy’s track record, but don’t feel great about it, given Simone’s health and I don’t love partnerships that are ending.
Gritty – I wanted the 2nd pick because the mixed and women’s doubles were the two most questionable #1 seeds. I agree that Simone has to stay the top pick in those brackets but you sure don’t feel good about it these days. On the other hand, Ben and Matt Wright have looked solid since Wright has decided to give court to Ben and play the right side while Anna Leigh is not looking like she will be beat in singles right now.
(6) Lea Jansen (Gritty)
(7) Tyson McGuffin (Gritty)
(8) Lucy Kovalova / Matt Wright (Slim)
(9) Anna Leigh Waters / Leigh Waters (Slim)
(10) Riley Newman / Tyson McGuffin (Gritty)
(11) Jessie Irvine / Catherine Parenteau (Gritty)
Slim – Matt and Lucy are still the number two doubles team in my mind, and so I was happy to pick them up here. I then decided to hopefully keep riding Anna Leigh’s ascension taking the Waters here as the second women’s team off the board. An argument could also have been made for Jessie and Catherine in this spot.
Gritty – I’ll chalk to Hilton Head loss to Parenteau as an aberration for Lea Jansen. I go with her as there is so much more parity in the field now and I think she’s still the clear cut #2 singles players with an outside shot to upset Anna Leigh. I don’t feel quite as good about Tyson McGuffin but I still go with him because of his consistency. McGuffin is also going to fight his way to a bronze if he drops to the backdraw.
The Riley/Tyson partnership is officially over after Tyson announced on his podcast he was dumped by Riley. I don’t love going with these partnerships that will soon be ending either. However, this pair is going to have big incentive at the PPA Championships to show out and I’m betting on their differences being put aside. Even though they have lost to the Waters back-to-back, Irvine/Parenteau are the easy pick here as the #3 women’s team as they have the upside to win gold together.
(12) Catherine Parenteau (Slim)
(13) JW Johnson (Slim)
(14) Lindsey Newman / Riley Newman (Gritty)
(15) Zane Navratil (Gritty)
(16) Dekel Bar / Adam Stone (Slim)
(17) Jessie Irvine / Jay Devilliers (Slim)
Slim – Catherine Parenteau is coming off of an impressive singles performance in Hilton Head where she defeated, Lea Jansen to take gold, so I’ll hope that she keeps that momentum going in singles this weekend. I know JW is coming off a couple disappointing singles performances, but overall his game is on the rise, and I love the upside. I had Dekel and Adam as the third best men’s team in this field so I am happy get them with the 16th pick. Jessie Irvine and Jay Devilliers are a relatively new team, but they’ve gotten silver their last 3 tournaments playing together so getting them with the 17th pick, feels like a steal.
Gritty – I thought the JW Johnson pick was way too high for Slim. His singles results are still inconsistent and in this field I actually had him as my #6 guy. That doesn’t mean he can’t medal here but I still don’t think JW is as consistent at this point in his young career. For my picks, I still have to go with the Newman’s but I sure don’t feel as good about them here as I would have a few weeks ago. I also like getting Zane at #4 as he has the momentum rolling these days in both doubles and singles.
(18) Callie Smith (Gritty)
(19) Susannah Barr / Lea Jansen (Gritty)
(20) Jay Devilliers (Slim)
(21) Callie Smith / Corrine Care (Slim)
(22) Callan Dawson / JW Johnson (Gritty)
(23) Lauren Stratman / AJ Koller (Gritty)
Slim – In a deep men’s singles field, I really like the fact that I know Jay Devilliers will compete hard all day, so I will gladly take him off the board here with the 20th pick. I had to take a women’s doubles team here so I take Callie and Corrine. As I have stated in the past, I don’t love Corrine in women’s doubles, but if she can provide the consistency and Callie can apply the pressure without trying to do too much, this team can be solid.
Gritty – I had Callie slightly ahead of Catherine in singles when I was doing rankings for this tournament. At the same time, I know that Jillian Braverman is out there and she has the ability to flip these singles draws upside down. Smith has been beating Parenteau and she plays more tournaments than Braverman so I want the player who is in their timing and rhythm. Susannah Barr didn’t have a good showing with Jessie Irvine last week, but I like her for a bounce back performance with someone who did have a good showing at Hilton Head in Lea Jansen. Barr’s women’s results are still not there consistently but she is getting better partners, and I’m still a believer those results will come.
I made a last minute switch away from Jay/Pat to go with Callan Dawson/JW here with the #4 men’s team off the board. This may be Jay/Pat fatigue for me but in watching their recent play I’m not overly impressed with what’s going on in that pairing. Pat is looking a bit too predictable on that right side and I still think Jay could use a little more juice on that backhand if he wants to be a dominant right side player. Dawson and JW are teaming up for the 2nd time in recent weeks, and I’ll take the upside here over the known commodities. I also go with the upside of Stratman and Koller, who I believe are partnering up for the first time. Stratman’s mixed results have been inconsistent at best but Koller is winning with everyone these days. Why not with Lauren who has as good weapons as any of the best females out there?
(24) Jillian Braverman (Slim)
(25) Jay Devilliers / Patrick Smith (Slim)
(26) Gabriel Joseph (Gritty)
(27) Catherine Parenteau / Dekel Bar (Gritty)
(28) Thomas Wilson / AJ Koller (Slim)
(29) Lauren Stratman (Slim)
(30) Irina Tereschenko / Lauren Stratman (Gritty)
Slim – Jillian Braverman may not be loved her peers, which I think is why she did not get selected in the MLP draft, but her talent is undeniable and I would not be surprised to see her on the podium in singles here. Patrick and Jay are looking like one of those worn out partnerships near the end of the season, as their results of late have not been great, but at this point in the draft their upside is too good not to take them. AJ Koller and Thomas Wilson are coming off a fourth place showing at the Texas Open and are a couple players on the rise. In any given match Lauren Stratman can beat just about any of the women in this singles field if her ground strokes are on.
Gritty – Gabe Joseph is a nice get here at the end of the draft. He has not played a tournament in a little while so that worries me. Nevertheless, there is a clear top 6 here and I think there’s an argument that Joseph is better than the 6th guy. There’s probably 4 mixed teams that I could have chosen in this spot, but apparently I can’t quit Dekel Bar as he is back with Parenteau this coming weekend. It seems like Bar’s conditioning is a problem so I’m hoping he has suddenly gotten in shape since Hilton Head last weekend. But seriously, the conditioning sounds like it needs to be way better and it may be that until he gets in proper, professional shape that he won’t be hitting mixed podiums in bigger tournaments. I end off the draft with Irina and Stratman. I was sort of debating going with Whitwell and David as I am in full sell mode with my Irina stock. Ultimately, Irina and Stratman are the right pick.
Notable Undrafted (Gritty)
I wanted to highlight a few teams that went undrafted because this is such a large field. Leigh Waters/Tyson McGuffin, Vivienne David/DJ Young and Jillian Braverman/Zane Navratil are all mixed teams that could have been picked. Leigh/Tyson have less upside but they will get wins whereas the latter 2 partnerships are filled with upside (hello, Vivienne David and Jillian Braverman). One question is whether Anna Leigh Waters is the mixed partner who dumped Tyson McGuffin late in the game this year. Does that impact Tyson with Leigh at all if that’s the case? Probably not, but I wanted to find an excuse to write whether it was Anna Leigh who dumped Tyson – the dumping by a mixed partner was also noted by Tyson on his recent podcast. I’ll also give Anna Leigh and Kyle Yates a shoutout as a team that could upset someone but almost certainly won’t make any real noise. Jansen and Collin Johns would have been more interesting prior to seeing more disappointing Collin results at Hilton Head.
In men’s, the Erik Lange/Collin Johns combo would be far more interesting if Lange was playing tournaments and Collin could get any results outside of Ben. Their partnership is a very ideal fit in theory though. Also, why does Collin always look like he’s not trying on the court? Look out for Austin Gridley and Mario Barrientos, and Spencer Smith and Tyler Loong as they are always dangerous Utah teams. Based on Instagram, it sounds like we may be getting a lot of Matt Chou/DJ Young in 2022. Chou had some surprising results earlier in the year but we haven’t seen anything of significance in a little while from him.
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