PPA Masters – Fantasy Draft Preview

Bad timing for the Hyundai PPA Masters. Big sponsor get for the PPA, which is nice to see pickleball getting a legitimate, non-pickleball sponsor. That is the next big leap for money coming into pickleball. Bad timing though as we’re guessing both fans and players are going to have some pickleball fatigue following the uber successful MLP weekend. This is going to be a weird one as a lot of the top players are back in action after a short turnaround. MLP was inserted into the schedule quite late and the PPA couldn’t have planned for such a marquee event to precede their attempt at doing something different. This is the PPA’s version of Wimbledon all white fashion event for the players. It is also supposed to be supplemented by a Celebrity Pro-Am event on Saturday, November 13th. The word “supposed” is used here because we haven’t heard much about it over the past month.

Other than Gritty’s daily viewing of TMZ, neither of us are big Hollywood gossip followers. However, thanks to one of our readers a couple of weeks ago (ome of the Denise’s!), we were made aware of some interesting Hollywood chatter. The reports, including when you Google search today, are that Randall Emmett and Lala Kent have broken up, and this Celebrity Pro-Am supposed to be presented by the two of them. Prior to those reports, on October 14th, the PPA announced on Instagram that one celebrity per day would be announced for the next 16 days. That same day, WWE star Natalie Eva Marie was the first celebrity announced for the event. Since then, no further announcements have been made and the PPA’s Instagram page has not one mention of a Celebrity Pro-Am, only “Celeb Appearances”. Randall Emmett did recently have an Instagram story about the Celebrity Pro-Am so your guess is as good as ours whether this is happening.

We have no idea what is going on here but the timing is unfortunate for the PPA. Hopefully the Pro-Am will go off without a hitch and we’ll get a big batch of celebrities before Saturday as this would no doubt be good publicity for the sport as more and more celebrities are coming out as pickle fiends.

In terms of actual pickleball, this PPA Masters event is shaping up to be a wonky one as mentioned. This is a possible let down spot for a lot of the top players who are probably more emotionally spent than anything after a long 4 days in Austin, Texas. Sure, they are professionals but they are also human beings. We’ll still be curious to monitor whether the results get crazy this weekend.

Slim is 3 up on the year in fantasy going into the PPA Masters. Slim won the toss and chose to draft first.

(1) Anna Leigh Waters (Slim)

(2) Ben Johns / Matt Wright (Gritty)

(3) Ben Johns (Gritty)

(4) Catherine Parenteau / Jessie Irvine (Slim)

(5) Simone Jardim / Ben Johns (Slim)

Slim – This was probably the hardest draft I’ve had with the combination of so many partnerships coming to an end soon, the long season in general, and most of the top players, perhaps experiencing a let down after MLP last week. All those factors made it difficult to decipher what performances we may get from many players. With the first overall pick, I took Anna Leigh, as I feel like she may be very hungry to prove a point after losing the the PPA Championship in Vegas to Catherine in three straight games, and I like a motivated Anna Leigh. I took Jessie and Catherine (also motivsted after MLP), as I have significant concerns about Simone’s health for this event, and I give Jessie and Catherine the edge over the Waters. I don’t love the Ben and Simone pick, as I said, I am very concerned about Simone’s health, and I question how engaged Ben may be after MLP, but I am hoping that maybe Ben will be rejuvenated after MLP.

Gritty – This could end up being one of the weirdest events of the year but I still think in handicapping this field you have to expect the big dogs to eat. Ben has not shown to be very motivated in recent events and he’s fresh off his most engaged, and best, performance in quite a while. I worry that he’s going to be mentally exhausted and won’t be all-in for this PPA Masters event especially with Simone. Nevertheless, Matt Wright did not play MLP last week and I’m hoping Ben still has some of that need to show how good he is even after he showed out at MLP.

(6) Lucy Kovalova / Matt Wright (Gritty)

(7) Simone Jardim / Lucy Kovalova (Gritty)

(8) Lea Jansen (Slim)

(9) Anna Leigh Waters / Leigh Waters (Slim)

(10) Tyson McGuffin (Gritty)

(11) Tyson McGuffin / Riley Newman (Gritty)

Slim – I take Lea Jansen here, as after a couple of slightly disappointing singles tournaments (by her standards) I feel she too will be very motivated this weekend, and this week in particular I am looking for motivated or chip on their shoulders players. I actually had the Waters ahead of Simone and Lucy, based on Simone’s health, so I felt like I had to grab them after Gritty skipped them.

Gritty – My thought process in this draft was trying to prioritize players who either did not play MLP or are likely to be motivated coming off the event. Lucy/Matt did not play MLP so they will be fresh – again meaning both mentally and physically. I’m quite concerned about Simone’s injury questions but both her and Lucy did not play MLP so I’m hoping this short time off is enough for Simone to be able to push through to give her one last hurrah with Lucy as we head into the end of 2021 – Callie Smith officially announced she’s playing with Lucy Kovalova next year and my pure speculation take on this partnership is that Lucy made this decision to go with Callie once Callie was on the market to play on Sundays. Lucy/Simone may also get the benefit of that #1 seed depending on the coin flip.

I really didn’t know what to do with these next picks. I go with Tyson 2x despite the ending partnership with Riley because I trust that you can always rely on McGuffin to put his best effort forward. I also think Newman is coming off a somewhat disappointing weekend and as more of a money motivated guy he’s always got incentive.

(12) Catherine Parenteau (Slim)

(13) JW Johnson / Rob Nunnery (Slim)

(14) Lindsey Newman / Riley Newman (Gritty)

(15) Jay Devilliers (Gritty)

(16) Anna Leigh Waters / Tyson McGuffin (Slim)

(17) AJ Koller / Callan Dawson (Slim)

Slim – We both probably let Catherine who has been on a real roll, slide too far. She is coming off of a gold medal at the PPA Championship in Vegas and a gold over Lea at Hilton Head, so I had to take her here. I know JW had a rough weekend at MLP but I still believe in the talent, and when he has a high level partner he generally gets results. Nunnery should be riding a wave of confidence after MLP, and provide the steady force that JW needs to succeed. A chance to get Anna Leigh in any event at 16 is a steal, and I have a feeling that she and Tyson will find a way to get to the podium this weekend. I trust these two will fight all day, even if Anna Leigh did dump Tyson for Ben next year. I also like the combination of AJ Koller and Callan Dawson, AJ has elite weapons, and Callan is just so consistent, it’s their second tournament together so they should have some chemistry now.

Gritty – The same comment on Riley Newman applies to him and Lindsey. It’s a lot of pickleball for Lindsey as is pregnant once again but they are so solid in mixed that to get them as the 3rd mixed team I couldn’t pass it up. Another guy who I felt like is going to give me max effort regardless of the circumstances is Jay Devilliers. I don’t love any of these picks but getting Jay at 15 without Zane in this field is pretty solid.

(18) Vivienne David / Lea Jansen (Gritty)

(19) Erik Lange / Dekel Bar (Gritty)

(20) Lea Jansen / Jay Devilliers (Slim)

(21) Callie Smith / Lindsey Newman (Slim)

(22) Callie Smith (Gritty)

(23) Jessie Irvine / DJ Young (Gritty)

Slim – It has been a while since Jay Devilliers missed a podium in mixed (5 straight tournaments) and Lea Jansen’s game has been on a constant upward trajectory. I also think these are two competitors who are going to come out and grind all day this weekend, so I feel like they are a steal at the 20th pick. Callie Smith and Lindsey Newman are a solid team but I just think Lindsey’s lack of weapons is too limiting in the women’s game.

Gritty– I’m riding the momentum wave of David/Jansen who, if they are both rested and healthy, have the ability to knock off any of those top 3 teams. David/Jansen did not lose a single match together at MLP. Lange doesn’t play a ton but his 4th place showing with Collin Johns was nice to see at the last PPA event so why not take him here with an even better partner in Dekel Bar. Lange can theoretically be an elite beta partner as his ability to counter is his best skill in my opinion. It will be interesting to see how he gels with Bar who will take a ton of court.

At this point, all our spots were filled so I just went in order of where I would have picked my players. Callie was the clear next choice in singles. However, I did not want to have to take the last mixed team and I struggled with this pick, ultimately going with hopefully a very motivated duo in Jessie Irvine and the undrafted DJ Young. Callie Smith and Dekel Bar get left off the board, but I’m in wait and see mode for Dekel in mixed – even Callie in mixed to a certain degree.

(24) JW Johnson (Slim)

(25) Gabe Joseph (Slim)

(26) Jillian Braverman (Gritty)

(27) Susannah Barr / Jillian Braverman (Gritty)

(28) Adam Stone / Collin Johns (Slim)

(29) Ryan Sherry (Slim)

(30) Kaitlyn Christian (Gritty)

Slim – JW Johnson and Gabe Joseph are both guys that you would not be surprised to see on the podium on the right day in singles, so I am happy to grab them here. Collin Johns and Adam Stone are both super consistent players, and will not give teams much, so it would not be shocking if they made a podium. Then with my final pick, on a week, where I am worried about a lot of player’s mental readiness, I know one guy has been getting extra mental preparation in, and that guy is Ryan Sherry. While other players were busy playing MLP in Austin last week, Sherry was there getting that mental preparation in. Also, on the latest Freestyle Boys podcast, Ben and Rob, jokingly floated the idea that Rob might be the best 4 point at a time singles, player. If we are looking for a 4 point singles player, my money is on Sherry and his passing shots!

Gritty – The last picks here were kind of fun. Jillian Braverman was easy as the next female singles player, but once again I’m left with two teams for one women’s spot. I’ve got to put my money where my mouth is on Irina being more or less washed even after a win at MLP and being partnered with Stratman who continues to look very solid. Susannah Barr could be reeling a bit from a sub-par performance at MLP to put it gently. On the other hand, Barr and Braverman have had some good success previously and Braverman will be eager to show what she can do after having to sit on the sidelines for MLP. Finally, I love that I get to pick Kaitlyn Christian. She doesn’t appear to have been playing much pickleball these days as she is travelling the world competing in tennis, but she has all the upside in the world. She has had singles success in smaller tournaments and, yes, she does come to the net, at least she did in the past.

Agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments below or email us at nmlpickleball@gmail.com

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