We’re back with a more typical PPA type field at the Texas Open Shootout. It’s a big weekend with the Major League PIckleball (MLP) draft on Friday, October 1st and a deep field in Dallas. Reminder our Mock Draft for MLP will go live tomorrow (Thursday). There was supposed to be betting starting this weekend but we have not heard anything about this actually being implemented. That would have been our opening discussion here but and, since that does not appear to be happening, we’re going to take a brief moment to discuss something from the APP Atlanta Metro Open that we didn’t mention before.
The APP allowed Ben Johns to be a last minute entry but, for whatever reason, they did not put most of his matches on either of their two center courts where they would be streamed. This is a wild maneuver to not leverage the fact that Ben Johns was playing an APP tournament. People want to watch Ben and the fact that people can’t see the rare mixed losses for Ben is not good. It’s pretty clear not much of a stink was made of this because very few even noticed with the medal matches being on ESPN+. This was a definite mistake from the APP whether intentional or not (even though it very much seems to be intentional). If you have the #1 player in the world make an appearance, you should use it to your advantage.
Anyway, it’s all the drafts for us this week as we have our classic Fantasy Draft Preview to get you ready for the actual pickleball action this weekend. Slim is 4 up for the year and he won to toss, electing to pick 2nd.
(1) Ben Johns / Matt Wright (Gritty)
(2) Simone Jardim / Ben Johns (Slim)
(3) Anna Leigh Waters (Slim)
(4) Lucy Kovalova / Simone Jardim (Gritty)
(5) Tyson McGuffin (Gritty)
Gritty – Ben Johns and Matt Wright have gelled a lot better in 2021 than they did in 2020. It seems this is primarily because Wright has given in and allowed Ben to take the left side exclusively. With their success in 2021, I thought they were the safest choice with Ben not able to play singles because he has an exam on Thursday. It is a question whether in-person school has had an effect on Ben with him not having a more pickleball-centred routine. I still go with Lucy and Simone as the first women’s team as they are still the most consistent pair in women’s despite their recent dip in play. I rounded out the top 5 with Tyson McGuffin who is the gold favorite in singles despite the heavy competition at this PPA.
SIim – I know Ben and Simone have suffered a couple losses lately, but with their track record, I still believe you have to take them here. However, with Simone apparently battling health issues, their unexplained withdrawal from Vegas, new partnerships being discussed for 2022 and Ben apparently writing an exam on Thursday and then having to write another on Friday on their mixed day, this feels far from a sure thing as it did for so long. Anna Leigh has won her last three women’s singles tournaments and the last couple in dominant fashion so I am very happy to pick her up here and ride the momentum.
(6) Jessie Irvine / Catherine Parenteau (Slim)
(7) Tyson McGuffin / Riley Newman (Slim)
(8) Lea Jansen (Gritty)
(9) Jay Devilliers (Gritty)
(10) Matt Wright / Lucy Kovalova (Slim)
(11) Zane Navratil (Slim)
Gritty – Lea Jansen is clearly the #2 player in women’s singles but she has gold upside in spite Anna Leigh’s recent singles momentum. Devilliers pulled out of Atlanta singles on the Sunday due to some knee trouble and I do worry a bit about the health of a guy who has played a ton of pickleball. However, at this point, he’s the solid #2 player in the field with Ben Johns out.
Slim – Jessie and Catherine did lose to the Waters in Orlando, but they are still arguably the hottest women’s team in pickleball so I take them and their upside here at 6. I always like the fact that you can count on Tyson and Riley to compete, so I pick them up as you can usually count on them to make it to the podium (they did miss it in Orlando). While there are a couple other very strong mixed teams in this tournament, I think Matt and Lucy are still the second best mixed team so at 10 you have to take them. In a singles field with no Ben Johns, getting Zane at number 11, again feels like good value as there is gold medal upside there.
(12) Anna Leigh Waters / Leigh Waters (Gritty)
(13) Catherine Parenteau / Riley Newman (Gritty)
(14) Callie Smith (Slim)
(15) Adam Stone / Dekel Bar (Slim)
(16) Patrick Smith / Jay Devilliers (Gritty)
(17) Anna Leigh Waters / JW Johnson (Gritty)
Gritty – I really like getting the Waters and Parenteau/Newman at this point in the draft. They are the 3rd teams picked for their brackets but they both have legitimate gold upside at this point. Anna Leigh is playing like a monster and Parenteau/Newman are fresh off a recent gold in Orlando. I also had Smith/Devilliers neck and neck with Stone/Bar so getting them as the 4th men’s team works well for me. Finally, I snatched the new partnership of Anna Leigh Waters and JW Johnson (Edit: hat tip to Jack Olmstead who pointed out to us these two did play together in March but I would say a lot of growth for both since then). This is a stacked mixed field but I wanted to go with the upside that this team provides. Waters finally gets a non-McGuffin higher level mixed partnership and it’ll be fun to see her with the stoic JW.
Slim – I had forgotten that Callie is still not playing singles on Championship Sunday when I made this pick, but she has made the podium her last three singes events and only seems to be getting stronger in singles, so even if my upside is limited to bronze, I feel like this is a solid pick here. Dekel and Adam are one on of the more consistent men’s teams and Dekel’s game continues to ascend.
(18) JW Johnson (Slim)
(19) Catherine Parenteau (Slim)
(20) Irina Tereschenko / Lea Jansen (Gritty)
(21) Jessie Irvine / Jay Devilliers (Gritty)
(22) Dekel Bar (Slim)
(23) JW Johnson / Callan Dawson (Slim)
Gritty – The draft went about as expected with Slim taking the teams I would have before I get Tereschenko/Jansen who we will be seeing a lot more of together. They beat Simone/Lucy last week but then lost to Irvine/Parenteau before squeaking by McGrath/Smith in the round robin. I wouldn’t expect a podium but clearly they have a bit of upside. There are a number of mixed teams that I could have gone with here and I went with upside of Irvine/Devililiers. Callie Smith and Tyson McGuffin have not been getting great results so I figured I’d go with the hot Jessie Irvine. It’s a bit tough that we both leave Jansen/Koller off the board after their almost win over Lucy/Matt in Orlando in the bronze match, but thems the breaks.
Slim – JW Johnson at 18 is terrific value, as he showed us at TOC he can get it done in singles, and without Ben in this field, it feels like a sneaky good pick. Catherine could easily podium in this field, and we have seen her playing on Championship Sunday, but overall her singles results this year have not been great. I can just about guarantee because I picked him Dekel won’t play singles tomorrow, but his upside here is too much for me to pass up. We haven’t seen Callan Dawson, who has been resting and rehabbing an arm injury in a little while, if I knew he was healthy and in form, I would really love this JW and Callan partnership.
(24) Irina Tereschenko (Gritty)
(25) Jeff Warnick / Zane Navratil (Gritty)
(26) Callie Smith / Tyson McGuffin (Slim)
(27) Lauren Stratman / Andrea Koop (Slim)
(28) Spencer Smith (Gritty)
(29) Cami Blake (Gritty)
(30) Callie Smith / Michelle Esquivel (Slim)
Gritty – Irina Tereschenko isn’t a big threat with the 4 players in front of her but she still has an outside shot at a podium in singles. I went with Warnick and Navratil as my last men’s team because, you guessed it, upside. There were about 4 teams I could have gone with here – the other 3 being the Rob’s, Loong/Smith and Yates/Frazier. However, Warnick and Navratil had some success in 2020 and Navratil’s steadiness in doubles is a better foil to Warnick than someone like Joey Farias. Zane has been playing so well recently in men’s so might as well take a chance on this pairing with my last pick. I had two singles picks to finish. I think Smith is due for a breakout. He’s been close to beating McGuffin recently and his game is so much better now that he actually comes to the net. Cami Blake is the only female I actually recognized remaining in the draw and none of the others had results to write home about so I go with her.
Slim – I keep feeling like Tyson and Callie are due for a breakout performance in mixed this year, and I have to hope they get it this weekend, otherwise I may be regretting not picking them over rising AJ Koller and Lea Jansen. Lauren Stratman and Andrea Koop are coming off of a gold medal at the APP event in Atlanta. We have not seen a lot of Andrea on the PPA tour, so it will be interesting to see how she does in this event. I am also interested to see how she and Dylan Frazier will do in mixed. Callie Smith and Michelle Esquivel are certainly a women’s team that is not missing power, but I do have questions about whether the consistency is there to carry them to a podium.
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