The upcoming PPA Atlanta stop is one of the four “majors” of 2023 for the PPA and is quite possibly the deepest overall field we have seen at a pro pickleball event this year. Unfortunately for a good chunk of viewers, they won’t be able to watch because the usual Championship Court stream will be aired exclusively on Amazon Prime for all four days. There will be YouTube streaming of Grandstand Court throughout the weekend apparently. While we have been very much in the camp of ensuring as many eyeballs on the sport as possible, the PPA’s announcement of its deal with Amazon Prime earlier this week potentially represents an important step for pro pickleball viewing. There is a high probability that streaming in some capacity is the future of watching everything from movies to TV to sports. Major sports entities believe streaming is the future and are making long-term investments in the streaming world. The NFL started airing Thursday Night Football exclusively on Amazon Prime last season, MLB has an exclusive game on Apple TV+ every Friday and there are some soccer leagues that have provided ESPN+ with exclusive rights to broadcast their product in the United States.
There was a story today where FOX CEO, Lachlan Murdoch, made a comment that NFL owners won’t be happy with the significant dip in viewership for Thursday Night Football in 2022 following the shift to Amazon Prime from network TV. However, as the author of the article comments, the NFL is not waiting to take action until after the move to streaming has happened and, instead, they are choosing to build a foundation early on. The PPA getting its foot in the streaming door appears to be a savvy move that sets the stage for pro pickleball to more easily integrate with a new world of viewing habits. It also creates the potential for a brand-new audience of subscribers who could be curious about what pro pickleball is. Not all of these streaming services are going to survive, but there is an understanding that live sports rights have massive potential to help grow a subscriber base. Pickleball is not moving any subscriber needles quite yet, but this looks like a shrewd business move by both the PPA and Amazon, even if it is a pain in the short-term for hardcore pickleball viewers.
Another fantasy week is upon is with Gritty is 1 up on the year as we come up on the halfway mark of the year. For our periodic disclaimer to newer readers, these picks are not podium picks. We do a 2-person fantasy draft for every tournament, each selecting 3 players for each pro bracket in a snake-style draft. The person with the most total points at the end of the tournament wins the week (3 points for gold, 2 points for silver and 1 point for bronze). Gritty won the toss and elected to pick second.
(1) Anna Leigh Waters / Ben Johns (Slim)
(2) Anna Leigh Waters (Gritty)
(3) Anna Leigh Waters / Anna Bright (Gritty)
(4) Ben Johns / Collin Johns (Slim)
(5) Ben Johns (Slim)
Slim – I imagine we will have a motivated Johns coming off of a break, and I hope we get him as I have him in all three events. He and Anna Leigh are still the most dominant team in pickleball, and outside of a random loss to Phillip Locklear and Ben Newell he and Collin have been dominant this year as well.
Gritty – I took the second pick because I think there are 3 guaranteed gold medal teams so I end up with two of them. Anna Leigh has been dominant in singles and she hasn’t lost in women’s doubles. I’m a little surprised Slim took the mixed pairing as his first team.
(6) Federico Staksrud (Gritty)
(7) Matt Wright / Riley Newman (Gritty)
(8) Jorja Johnson / Vivienne David (Slim)
(9) Lea Jansen (Slim)
(10) Anna Bright / James Ignatowich (Gritty)
(11) Lea Jansen / Jessie Irvine (Gritty)
Slim – Jorja and Vivienne have good chemistry playing together and I like their draw, so take them here. I like Lea Jansen to make another championship Sunday with her singles draw.
Gritty – Federico is banging at the door for that #1 singles slot and I think has the ability to at least challenge Ben for a gold medal. Matt and Riley have not shown any signs of being able to beat the Johns bros this year, but they also looked like they were falling behind before pummeling the kids, JW and Dylan Frazier, in North Carolina. The mixed field is wide open but I’ll take my chances on the draw with a talented team that is playing together all the time in Bright and Ignatowich. I fiddled with having Jansen/Irvine in my #2 women’s slot, but I get them at #3 anyway because we both had similar chemistry, first-time partnership concerns. Jansen/Irvine are the #2 team talent wise, but this is a boom or bust chemistry team depending on how things go.
(12) JW Johnson / Dylan Frazier (Slim)
(13) Parris Todd / Riley Newman (Slim)
(14) Catherine Parenteau (Gritty)
(15) Tyson McGuffin (Gritty)
(16) Salome Devidze (Slim)
(17) Jorja Johnson / JW Johnson (Slim)
Slim – JW and Dylan are on the Johns brothers side of the draw which dropped them a bit, but they still have gold medal potential, and I think at worst they should get bronze. It will be very interesting to see how Parris does this weekend, but with Riley seeming to hit his stride again now, this is a great opportunity for her to make some noise on the PPA tour. Salome is Lea insurance, one of those two should make championship Sunday from the bottom half of the women’s singles draw. The Johnsons will have to beat Ben and Anna Leigh again, if they want to make championship Sunday, but they have shown they can do it. Getting a team with gold medal potential this late seems like a steal.
Gritty – Catherine Parenteau does not have a favorable draw with Anna Leigh Waters on her side, but she’s also the only person to have beaten AL this year. The singles results have dipped slightly after that unexpected uptick a couple of months ago. Despite the deep draw, Tyson somehow finds himself with a favorable PPA singles draw yet again and his experience means I pick him with that #3 men’s singles slot.
(18) Catherine Parenteau / Parris Todd (Gritty)
(19) Julian Arnold (Gritty)
(20) Callan Dawson / Dekel Bar (Slim)
(21) Judit Castillo (Slim)
(22) Tyson McGuffin / Catherine Parenteau (Gritty)
(23) Tyler Loong / AJ Koller (Gritty)
Slim – Callan and Dekel on paper seem like a good partnership, but outside of his run with Collin Johns, Dekel’s results haven’t been great this year. Judit’s last PPA was a bit disappointing, it will be interesting to see how she goes this weekend in a tough draw.
Gritty – I like the upside that Parenteau and Todd provide, but it is a question if Todd actually is providing upside these days. This will be a good test to see where her women’s game is at and will be something teams in Premier of MLP for season 2 should be monitoring closely. Julian Arnold has not done well in singles the past little while but I think his talent is too much to pass up considering what the draw looks like. Tyson/Catherine avoid the AL/Ben side of the draw and I just tried to stack up on as many teams as I could from that half. Loong/Koller are an interesting pairing. I don’t know if they have enough juice to crack the top 3 but they should have as good a chance as anyone else, including a more favorable draw.
(24) Lucy Kovalova / Callie Smith (Slim)
(25) JW Johnson (Slim)
(26) Tyson McGuffin / James Ignatowich (Gritty)
(27) Vivienne David / Thomas Wilson (Gritty)
(28) Irina Tereschenko / Etta Wright (Slim)
(29) Christian Alshon (Slim)
(30) Callie Smith (Gritty)
Slim – Lucy and Callie have a fairly favourable draw as they avoid Anna Leigh and Anna, so it is quite possible we could see them in Championship Sunday. It’s been a while since we’ve seen JW in singles, I am hoping the break will have him refreshed. Irina and Etta have proven that they can be a high level women’s doubles team so it wouldn’t be a shocker to see them hit the podium. Etta’s health is a question mark.
Gritty – I leave the upgraded version of team no counter (Daescu/Devilliers) undrafted in favor of the struggling McGuffin/Ignatowich duo. It seems James still needs work on his men’s doubles game and it will be interesting to see if McGuffin/Iggy try to go with Iggy on the right to switch things up. Thomas Wilson is back after some time off with a wrist injury. He could be rusty but the Vivienne David partnership is always a dangerous one, even if they don’t have their delaminated CRBN paddles to fall back on. Callie Smith is probably going to withdraw, but my other options were Mary Brascia and Irina Tereschenko so I figured may as well see if Callie wants to play singles this week.
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