We’ll use the space in the opening here to talk about DUPR’s first Beat the Dream Team event that happened last night. The event itself had more of an organized rec play feel, which is good in some ways. However, the best part of MLP was that the stakes felt so high in each match and it’s near impossible to recreate that. We always like seeing different partnerships so that was fun but the rally scoring is not something we’re huge fans of. It undoubtedly creates a game where every point matters more and it would lead to more upsets, but that’s also the double-edged sword of it. Stone/Johns really had no business winning their match. We like that experimentation is happening as you can’t find new things that work unless you try stuff, but we have a bit of a get off my lawn approach to the rally scoring. Also, we had no idea this event was affiliated with the APP until we tuned in to see it playing on APPTV. Who knew?
The PPA Austin Open is now the 5th consecutive weekend of tournaments, and we probably should stop being surprised every weekend when there is a tournament. We’re apparently still trying to cover every single tournament with our revamped website (by the way, please let us know if you don’t like anything with the new website!). It’s another fantasy draft preview with Slim looking to maintain his dominant form as he is 6 up going into this weekend. Gritty won the toss and gave Slim the opportunity to select first.
(1) Anna Leigh Waters (Slim)
(2) Ben Johns (Gritty)
(3) Lucy Kovalova / Callie Smith (Gritty)
(4) Ben Johns / Collin Johns (Slim)
(5) Andrea Koop / Ben Johns (Slim)
Slim – Anna Leigh has been pretty dominant in singles this year, the one player who has pushed her a bit though is Catherine Parenteau, who is playing singles this weekend after taking the last couple of tournaments off. If they meet in the gold, it will be interesting to see how that match goes. There is no JW this weekend and I don’t think they are expecting hurricane like winds in Austin this weekend, so I expect Collin and Ben to reclaim the men’s doubles crown. In mixed, it is hard to bet against Ben and I have always been fairly high on Andrea Koop’s game, and they have the MLP experience playing together.
Gritty – I didn’t have a good feel for this mixed field and wanted to let Slim make that choice for his #1 slot there. I think I have two pretty sure gold medal teams with the 2nd and 3rd picks. No JW Johnson and his Crbn paddle should equal another gold for Ben in singles. Lucy/Callie are back together after a one tournament hiatus, and they have gone undefeated so far. They may be due for a loss here though knowing that I have picked them in fantasy.
(6) Catherine Parenteau (Gritty)
(7) Jessie Irvine / Jay Devilliers (Gritty)
(8) Tyson McGuffin (Slim)
(9) Matt Wright / Riley Newman (Slim)
(10) Anna Leigh Waters / Leigh Waters (Gritty)
(11) Catherine Parenteau / Jessie Irvine (Gritty)
Slim – Tyson has been very consistent in reaching that Championship Sunday this year, and he is a big beneficiary of the fact that as long he keeps making it, he stays in that two spot and avoids Ben and, to date, JW. Riley and Matt are coming off their first gold medal of the year and were an easy pick at 9.
Gritty – Catherine hasn’t played singles the last couple of PPAs, but she has been the no doubt #2 player in singles in 2022. I still think she has gold upside and Anna Leigh is another one that could be due for a loss somewhere. The law of being due! We get some seeding draft choices at this point in the draft and Jessie/Jay are a seeding pick for me. This mixed field is wide open and, if they have the #4 seed, it gives them a real good shot at a Championship Sunday yet again. After Slim’s picks, the next teams on my board were the women’s teams that have been the top 3 teams all year. Irina/Stratman did have an almost gold at the PPA Masters late in 2021 so this is by no means a lock, but I like the chance to sweep the women’s doubles category.
(12) Lea Jansen (Slim)
(13) Anna Leigh / Dekel Bar (Slim)
(14) Lucy Kovalova / Matt Wright (Gritty)
(15) Catherine Parenteau / Riley Newman (Gritty)
(16) Jay Devilliers (Slim)
(17) Dekel Bar / DJ Young (Slim)
Slim – Lea Jansen made her first championship Sunday of the season in Florida but can she keep it going here? Lea will likely need to beat Catherine Parenteau in the semis to do that, and Catherine has had her number the last couple of times they played. Dekel and Anna Leigh are an extremely intriguing partnership. I will not be surprised if they win the whole thing, but also won’t be shocked if they miss the podium all together. The no picking Dekel in mixed rule has been suspended based on his 2022 results so far. Jay Devilliers has had inconsistent singles results to start the year, but I still think he is the third best singles player in this field. Dekel Bar and DJ Young are extremely talented partnership, and on the right day they could win the whole thing.
Gritty – Lucy/Matt have not been having great results, but they got their first bronze last time out. Both are top 3 players in doubles so you have to think they can figure it out at some point in mixed. I did have Anna Leigh/Dekel one slot ahead of them on my big board too. Another pair who have had a disappointing year, Catherine/Riley also fall into that they are due category with Anna Leigh/Ben separated for one tournament.
(18) Thomas Wilson / AJ Koller (Gritty)
(19) Callie Smith (Gritty)
(20) Parris Todd (Slim)
(21) Julian Arnold (Slim)
(22) Thomas Wilson (Gritty)
(23) Jay Devilliers / Tyson McGuffin (Gritty)
Slim – Parris Todd has been showing great potential over the last month, but if she wants to start beating the top women on any sort of consistent basis, I think she needs to start coming to the net. It feels like Julian Arnold is due to breakthrough somewhere. Hopefully it is this weekend in singles. His partnership in men’s with Shelton is intriguing as well.
Gritty – I had Thomas/AJ ahead of Dekel/DJ when I put my rankings together, but it was not something I felt great about. I liked DJ on the right in the DUPR event with his tricky forehand speed-ups. On the flip side, Thomas/AJ have not had the upward trajectory I expected as the year has gone along and they came away with an expected, but likely disappointing, bronze at the APP Delray last weekend. Frankly, they were lucky to get that silver in Minnesota, which is the only big result of the year. Can they turn things around? Callie Smith is another one who seems due for a bigger result as her singles game has plateaued in 2022. Thomas Wilson had a rough outing at the Riverland Open, but those singles results are going to fluctuate with the depth out there. I’m really happy to get him in this spot. Jay/Tyson’s upside seems to be bronze but these two have the advantage they have as much fight between them as any partnership out there. As we see more teams dog it in the limited incentive backdraws, Jay/Tyson are not going to throw the towel in if they get kicked down from the winner’s side of the draw.
(24) Callie Smith / AJ Koller (Slim)
(25) Irina Tereschenko / Lauren Stratman (Slim)
(26) Irina Tereschenko (Gritty)
(27) Callan Dawson / Patrick Smith (Gritty)
(28) Andrea Koop / Vivienne David (Slim)
(29) Jillian Braverman / Lee Whitwell (Slim)
(30) Tyler Loong (Gritty)
Slim – Getting Callie Smith and AJ Koller with the 24th pick feels like a steal, but it probably speaks more to the depth of the mixed field than anything. You split up Ben and AL, and suddenly it feels like there are a whole bunch of teams that could win it all. Lauren Stratman and Irina Tereschenko had a great run at the PPA Masters last year beating the Waters and taking silver, can they have a similar run again this weekend? They only went this late because Gritty filled up his women’s teams early. It appears that Vivienne and Andrea have withdrawn from the women’s doubles field and I knew it was a gamble taking them with this possibility when we drafted given Vivienne’s health but thought it was worth the shot. Jill Braverman remains an intriguing talent. I just don’t think she plays enough though to compete against the very top women, but I like her paired with the uber consistent Lee Whitwell.
Gritty – Irina always has an outside shot at a podium even though I’m not expecting anything big. I could have gone several places with my last men’s pick, including Mr. Rob Nunnery who is somewhat surprisingly back in the fold after an extended hiatus. I had Nunnery/Loong tentatively in this 6th slot but backed out last second as I’m worried Nunnery hasn’t been getting any top end practice or tournament play recently. Two right sided players gives me some pause, but I like Pat Smith’s power with Callan Dawson’s steady play. Finally, Tyler Loong has had a comeback singles year and he looks like he’s working on his fitness as these old guard players seem to be realizing they have to grind more to keep up in this new era of pickleball.
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