USA Pickleball Nationals – Fantasy Draft Preview

We will have full thoughts on the MLP-Vibe merger sometime on Thursday. For now, it’s a Fantasy Draft Preview and the live blog will be churning as always starting with singles Thursday. 

We are now a year removed from the COVID Nationals and the PPA arbitrarily okaying the Nationals standards means that we should be getting one of the more interesting tournaments of the year. There’s a slight shake-up to some of the PPA partnerships, including Catherine Parenteau and Anna Leigh Waters trading men for one event. We’re also seeing some fun partnerships like Tyler Loong/DJ Young, Dylan Frazier/Rafa Hewett, Kyle Yates/Julian Arnold, Lea Jansen/Vivienne David and Lauren Stratman/Parris Todd. There are a number of new opportunities to see more of the pure APP partnerships stack up, especially in mixed, such as Vivienne David/Thomas Wilson, Parris Todd/JW Johnson, Jorja Johson/Dylan Frazier and Zane Navratil/Andrea Koop. Another thing that we’ll have to keep an eye on is seeding and how that impacts things keeping in mind this will be the only true double elimination for the PPA players in 2022. It should be a fun ride this weekend.

A final comment on an unknown factor is whether there have already been partnership changes made 2023. We expect that any changes to year long  partnerships would have already happened, but we are not aware of any confirmed significant partnership switches at this point.  It was obvious at the end of 2021 that partnership splits had a real impact on those players results at the end of the year. Is that already happening? 

Slim is 6 up on the year in fantasy drafts. The two of us have been steady with one another since the first quarter of the year, but outside of Gritty’s move a couple of months ago to get within 2, no ground has been gained at all. Gritty won the toss and elected to go first. 

(1) Anna Leigh Waters (Gritty) 

(2) Anna Leigh Waters / Leigh Waters (Slim) 

(3) Ben Johns / Collin Johns (Slim) 

(4) Anna Leigh Waters / Riley Newman (Gritty) 

(5) Ben Johns (Gritty) 

Gritty – Anna Leigh Waters may be due to lose at some point but she is the obvious pick in a relatively deep women’s singles bracket. I had AL and Riley a smidge ahead of Catherine/Ben. Ben does not seem to care all that much about singles these days but we know that Benny Backdraw will be grinding a double elimination loser’s bracket if things go awry…right? 

Slim – The Waters and the Johns have both shown that they are beatable in gender doubles, but they have also both proven to be the top and most consistent teams this year. So in a week where we have some new teams, I went with old reliable, with these teams.

(6) Catherine Parenteau / Ben Johns (Slim) 

(7) JW Johnson (Slim) 

(8) Matt Wright / Riley Newman (Gritty) 

(9) Jessie Irvine / Anna Bright (Gritty) 

(10) Parris Todd (Slim)

(11) Callie Smith / Lucy Kovalova (Slim) 

Gritty – Matt and Riley have still played tight games with Ben/Collin for the most part in spite of their losses. There is gold medal potential there. Jessie and Anna have not been able to break through for a gold (edit: since Cincinnati), but they also have given the Waters enough trouble to believe this could be their weekend.

Slim – Ben Johns is still the top mixed player out there and Catherine is a very steady partner for him, so to get them outside of the top five picks is great value. If we see them versus Anna Leigh and Riley, it will be fascinating. JW has, by his standards, been a little off in singles lately, but I think Nationals causes him to rise to the occasion this weekend. Parris hasn’t been playing a ton of singles lately, but as the only woman to beat Anna Leigh this year, the upside is obvious. Lucy and Callie should be on the podium this week, it’s just a matter of where they end up.

(12) Hunter Johnson (Gritty) 

(13) Dekel Bar / JW Johnson (Gritty) 

(14) Lea Jansen (Slim) 

(15) Parris Todd / JW Johnson (Slim) 

(16) Jessie Irvine / Jay Devilliers (Gritty) 

(17) Salome Devidze (Gritty) 

Gritty – Hunter Johnson has established himself as the number 3 singles player at this moment and I wonder if JW’s struggles are more than simply motivation and fatigue based. Dekel/JW likely don’t have upside beyond bronze, but they are the best of the rest at Nationals. I really wonder if the Jessie/Jay partnership is ending. The vibe seemed off between them on Sunday when they lost to Rettenmaier/Wright. They have had a good year but Irvine may want a chance at a gold medal in mixed. Lea Jansen was actually my #2 female singles player in this field and I left her hoping Slim would let her fall to me. I’ll settle for Devidze, who is in the running for a silver here.

Slim – Lea Jansen is coming off of a silver medal performance in Texas, hopefully she can carry that momentum into this weekend. JW and Parris got beat by twice by Thomas Wilson and Vivienne David in Houston, but my number one rule is don’t bet against JW and I think the wind did not favor Parris in Houston.

(18) Federico Staksrud (Slim) 

(19) Julian Arnold (Slim) 

(20) Tyler Loong / DJ Young (Gritty) 

(21) Lea Jansen / Vivienne David (Gritty) 

(22) Lauren Stratman / Parris Todd (Slim) 

(23) Matt Wright / Lucy Kovalova (Slim) 

Gritty – Tyler/DJ are a very interesting pairing together. Loong is a super steady right sided player for Young and gets results with a bunch of different partners. Lea Jansen has not had a good run with Parenteau recently, but I’ll take the upside with the absolute rock of a partner in Vivienne David here. 

Slim – Federico is one of the more consistent singles players out there, even though he has missed a couple podiums lately. Julian Arnold has made the podium in his last 4 singles tournaments, so I am hoping he can keep that hot streak going this weekend. I really like the Lauren Stratman and Parris Todd partnership, Lauren is a strong left side player and Parris is a very strong right side player. Also, the partnership will not be lacking in fire power. Matt and Lucy haven’t been as dominant this year, but getting them with the 23rd pick feels like stealing. In a weekend full of new mixed partnerships, their chemistry could prove a huge edge.

(24) Megan Fudge (Gritty) 

(25) Vivienne David / Thomas Wilson (Gritty) 

(26) Dylan Frazier / Rafa Hewett (Slim) 

(27) Eden Lica / Andrei Daescu (Slim) 

(28) Tyson McGuffin (Gritty) 

(29) Andrea Koop / Simone Jardim (Gritty)

(30) Anna Bright (Slim) 

Gritty – Megan Fudge is fantastic value at this spot. She won gold over Parris Todd in the wind of Houston and she has the savvy to find the podium. I really wanted Vivienne/Thomas to fall to me as it will be a lot more fun cheering for those two to make some noise rather than another Matt/Lucy good day. I think this could be an unmotivated Tyson McGuffin in a really deep singles draw. There were a bunch of people that could have been picked including Frazier, Zane Navratil, Ignatowich, Devilliers, Yates Johnson, Pablo Tellez and Rafa Hewett. Andrea/Simone probably don’t have the upside to make a podium in this field but they are a strong pairing together.

Slim – Dylan Frazier is one of the best men’s doubles players in the game. If Rafa and his ultra aggressive style are on this weekend, they are going to be a problem for teams. Eden Lica hasn’t been playing a lot of tournaments lately, but he and Andrei have shown they can make podiums in deep fields. There were a number of other quality men’s teams left undrafted by us.

Agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments below or email us at Follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook too!

16 thoughts on “USA Pickleball Nationals – Fantasy Draft Preview

  • November 10, 2022 at 5:57 am

    Why in the world is nationals making their stream private once it’s over? It makes no sense! I’ve never seen anybody do that with their streams. If they don’t want anybody to watch nationals and see their sponsors, go right ahead. You won’t get any viewers.

    • November 10, 2022 at 9:17 am

      I have no idea. Was lookkng this morning and noticed that

    • November 10, 2022 at 9:58 am

      Nationals has always made a lot of their stuff private or a paid streaming outlet. Then release it 3 years* later (if it doesn’t get lost in the meantime) and somehow expect someone to be interested. (*might be a slight exaggeration). But some streams are also taken down because of music copyright. The first year at IWTG nationals didn’t know there was a copyright law and got hit by that pretty badly. A lot of their streaming ended up being without sound or sometimes you had a choice to view with or without sound.

      • November 10, 2022 at 2:57 pm

        Regardless, terrible not to have their streaming available later on

  • November 10, 2022 at 5:59 am

    Normally, i would think those new to IWTG might have some jitters or just not be able to find their court in the massive venue. But I see Bright and Ignatowich have already played and medaled so that should help them. Bright has 2 gold in Pro Split Age with Weinbach and Bellamy. Ignatowich has Silver with Morariu. Dekel got the gold with Gingrich.

    All the pros matches start at 11:00 TLT (Tournament Local Time) each day so that should help notorious night owls and/or slow starters like Ben Johns. Definitely not a walk through the bracket for anyone today. The womens single bracket looks like all the matches could be competitive. Ignatowich isn’t in the singles draw.

    I see you couldn’t find your way to drafting Jorja/Irina. Sad to say I have to agree with you there but maybe a replacement for Koop/Jardim. I don’t see Koop/Jardim in the list.

    I’d say the veterans of IWTG and past winners probably have the edge over the first-timers. But that still leaves plenty of contenders. And I like Hunter’s chances for singles podium.

    • November 10, 2022 at 9:18 am

      Missed that Simone and Andrea had withdrawn since I did my board.

  • November 10, 2022 at 6:51 am

    Just saw that you said that Jessie and Anna haven’t broken through for a gold, but they beat the Waters in the semi’s and Lea/Catherine in the final to win the Baird Wealth Management open.

  • November 10, 2022 at 6:52 am

    The singles brackets are stacked! It’s going to be a fun day! REALLY hope they make the live stream videos available after they finish unless they have been so far. 🤞🏻🤞🏻🤞🏻

    • November 10, 2022 at 7:05 am

      And I can’t wait for the match of the year: ALW and Riley vs Ben and Catherine. I don’t know if I have ever been more excited to see two teams matchup!

    • November 10, 2022 at 9:16 am

      I remember seeing that. Do you think this means no change in partnership?

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