This is a tier 1 APP Tour tourney, which means we get a Championship Sunday. 4 more days of pickleball? Sign us up! We actually had some mixed pro split age on Wednesday that was won by AJ Koller/Eva Welsher after coming through the backside to beat Barr/Witsken.
Our fantasy draft preview can be found here for those interested.
Sunday, March 20th – Championship Sunday
3:02 pm EST (Gritty) – JW Johnson is a beast. It was tight but he pulls out a triple crown. JW and Simone steamrolled Barr/Gridley, which was not shocking at all. It looked like it might be another steamrolling in the men’s match up a game and 8-4 in the second, when Dekel Bar started serving the crap out of it. We’ve had some discussion about illegal serves but as I noted before a major difference with Dekel’s serve is that he is still coming underneath the ball rather than sidearm. He is definitely pushing the waist boundary but he has such an advantage with his height. Frazier/JW missed 4 returns in game 2 and then Bar/Stone took game 3. They started middle dinking the kids a bunch but in the game to 15 they weren’t able to pull it out, losing 15-10.
12:05 pm EST (Gritty) – No double Johnson gold today in singles. JW scraped by Federico Staksrud 12-10 in the third and Fed has announced his place in the pickleball world in a big way this weekend. JW secures his 4th singles title in a row but he had to fight for it.
Anna Bright is also clearly improving after 4 weekends of playing. The results are going to vary but she said in an interview this weekend she knows she needs to fight her instinct and get to the net. With less court coverage, it seems it is more difficult for the women to feel comfortable at the net. She can still do it more but she did it enough against Jorja to secure her 2nd pro singles title. As an aside, she looked really good this weekend in women’s doubles and mixed. The train should be full steam ahead here.
Saturday, March 19th – Mixed
6:50 pm EST (Gritty) – I don’t think Susannah Barr and Austin Gridley made new friends today, but it is a huge day for them. There’s no two ways about it, Gridley made a poor call on a helluva shot from Anna Bright 10-10 in game 1 to give them 11-10. He made an immediate call and seemed to think it was out, but the replay clearly showed in. Tough time to lose a point. But the match itself was just really fun. 12-10, 10-12, 11-8 and Barr/Gridley were down 8-2 in the third. Bright, who hasn’t seen a ton of big pickleball matches, looked to get just a wee bit tight down the stretch of game 3. Barr is getting the “net lord” nickname as she plays with such thin margins, but when it is working like it was down the stretch it cannot be fun to play against. I actually thought Gridley lost an inordinate number of hand battles over the course of the match. They come out on top regardless.
4:24 pm EST (Gritty) – A lot of very tight calls this weekend. The Hewett/Ansboury and Barr/Gridley match got a bit heated with a line call off a serve by Barr that looked close but impossible to tell on video with Barr’s body blocking the ball. It’s kind of ironic seeing Ansboury get so up in arms over these things but everyone gets upset if there’s a bad call against. These things are going to keep happening without line judges though. It’s inevitable, intentional or unintentional. There seems to have been more really close ones for whatever reason this weekend. Not ideal.
Winners bracket final is one game in and JW and Simone win the first 11-7. I’d like to see Bright straight across from Jardim as an adjustment. She doesn’t have the consistency to grind Simone, even whatever % of her best self Simone is right now. Barr/Gridley will get Koop/Navratil to see who plays for bronze.
2:21 pm EST (Gritty) – Bright/Frazier are into the winners final. Hewett/Ansboury were up 8-3 in the 2nd but got 8 straight put on them. Only play the teams you meet but I still think they benefit from not having to face David/Bar or Koop/Navratil. Speaking of David/Bar, it’s a weird withdrawal if only rest related. They can still come through the backdraw and I think it’s pretty pathetic not to want grind through for a shot at gold, especially if it’s just Dekel not wanting to be tired for men’s tomorrow. Stealing a page from the Ben Johns playbook.
12:19 pm EST (Gritty) – Just when you think Dekel Bar is figuring out the whole mixed thing (although they withdrew from back draw so injury?), we get a loss against Remynse/Daescu in 3 games. Remynse is one of the underrated players out there with her lack of tournaments and seemingly lackadaisical style, but as we saw with Barr yesterday, and now Daescu today, she is still right there. Then Remynse/Daescu lose a super tight one 11-9 in the third to Bright/Frazier. Bright’s talent continues to shine through in these matches as her hands are simply top notch. But those are always heartbreakers. Daescu also is a monster overall.
Ansboury/Hewett continue to be a team that can do damage in these fields. They are often on the border of being drafted by us but you just never know which tourney they are going to hit in. Big win, 11-9 in the third, over Koop/Navratil. Ansboury needs a guy like Hewett to be the tasmanian devil and finish points, and Hewett needs someone with Ansboury’s full steadiness. His style plays better for mixed and it clearly works for the two of them.
Just a note that it sounds like Lauren Stratman tweaked something so her singles withdrawal and then her being out completely in mixed with Julian Arnold seems to be health related. It’s interesting because she sounds like she has signed the 3-year PPA deal so to play this Delray tournament we think she would have needed permission. But the non-appearance is apparently injury related.
Friday, March 18th – Doubles
7:42 pm EST (Gritty) – Let’s get caught up on the day here. The women’s doubles side was quite interesting as Jardim/Koop will play for gold. They have, unsurprisingly, rolled through the bracket. However, Bright/Franco and Remynse/Barr are both teams that we didn’t necessarily expect in the bronze. Esquivel/Whitwell were not strong today and it really shows what steady forces Jorja Johnson and Vivienne David are as they have had good success teaming with Lee. In the bronze, Remynse/Barr made an important adjustment to have Barr cross-court with Franco and use her penetrating rolling dinks to grind her. Bright barely touched the ball most of the match and it’s really hard for a newer female like Bright to figure out how to insert herself in a match like that. Barr and Remynse both counter well so the few times Bright was able to speed up it wasn’t an easy proposition, especially when they know it’s coming. So it’s Barr/Remynse to play for gold.
On the men’s side, it doesn’t look like Frazier’s back is too much cause for concern. They steamrolled Koller/Wilson after they basically played everything to JW in game 1. It didn’t really matter. But then Frazier/JW took down Bar/Stone in the winners bracket final 11-6, 11-4, which I found to be surprising. Look at it this way, Kyle Yates/Dekel Bar beat JW/Dylan twice in Punta Gorda without dropping a game. Sure seems to say something about Kyle Yates when he is paired with an elite left-side player – Yates/Cassidy by the way with a couple of heartbreaking losses today. Daescu/Navratil and Wilson/Koller battled through to the match to get to bronze in 15-13 wins but Koller/Wilson came out on top 15-11.
At the end of the day, Bar/Stone will get another shot against the kids as they take Wilson/Koller down 11-3, 12-10. It was a strong men’s doubles field today and clearly that bronze could have gone to a number of different teams.
2:30 pm EST (Slim) – The first women’s semi-final is in the books, with Anna Bright and Regina Franco rolling Megan Fudge and Martina Kochli 11-1, 11-6. I expect whoever they play next will give them a tougher test, but Bright and Franco are rolling right now. In the other women’s semi-final Maggie Remynse and Susannah Barr have taken the first game off of Simone Jardim and Andrea Koop, it will be interesting to see if they can pull off the upset.
On the men’s side we have two very interesting semi-finals, with Adam Stone and Dekel Bar taking on Austin Gridley and DJ Young. I like Adam and Dekel to take it but think it will be close. In the other semi-final Thomas Wilson and AJ Koller will take on Dylan Frazier and JW Johnson, in what should be an extremely close match up, I would usually favor Frazier/Johnson, but I think Wilson/Koller take it, I am worried about Dylan’s back.
1:05 pm EST (Slim) – Some interesting results in the women’s draw to start the day. Anna Bright and Regina Franco beat Vivienne David and Corrine Carr 11-4, 11-0. I am not surprised that Anna and Regina won, but I am a little surprised about the scores. Vivienne and Corrine are just not a good fit, as they are both setup players. I am also sure Corrine Carr will be happy if she doesn’t have to face Anna Bright for a while. Megan Fudge and Martina Kochli defeated Michelle Esquivel and Lee Whitwell 11-7, 1-11, 11-8 which is a very good win for them, and Megan Fudge seems to be continuing to improve. Maggie Remynse and Susannah Barr beat Jorja Johnson and Sarah Ansboury in three games 11-8, 6-11, 11-7. Maggie and Susannah are a first time partnership and I had a hard time figuring out how they might do this week, but that is a good start for them.
On the men’s side things have been pretty chalk so far, DJ Young and Austin Gridley just beat Kyle Yates and Rob Cassidy in three close games, 12-10, 8-11, 11-9. If they match up against Dekel Bar and Adam Stone in the semis, I will be interested to see if they can cause them some problems, they are a very long team with excellent hands and weapons. The Wilson/Koller vs. Dasecu/Navratil quarterfinal is also intriguing, I like Wilson/Koller to win, but think it will be close. Also of note Dylan Frazier and JW Johnson went three games in the first match of the day against Eric Gilbert and Jay Campbell, I do wonder after he withdrew from singles yesterday, how Dylan’s back is.
Thursday, March 17th – Singles
5:54 pm EST (Gritty) – Two surprise podiums in men’s today with Fed Staksrud and Jake Kusmider. Staksrud into the gold after a strong performance. Kusmider hasn’t been playing much this year so far so great result for him too. Staksrud has come as close as anyone has to beating JW over the past month. Let’s see if he can do anything in the final.
Jorja easily over Megan Fudge who did run out of gas. The APP switched up their initial Championship Sunday mishap and is not playing the bronze on Sunday this time around. Good for viewers. Not good for Fudge. We’ll see if Jorja can find a way to cool down Anna Bright.
3:57 pm EST (Gritty) – JW Johnson is into the gold medal match. He’ll play the winner of Jake Kusmider and whoever wins between Federico Staksrud and John Cincola. Federico with a huge day as almost beat JW Johnson earlier then fights in the backdraw to take down Zane Navratil 17-15 and then a win over DeHeart to be in the bronze. John Cincola beat Gabe Tardio 15-13. It seems like these men’s singles fields are going to become harder to cap with all the new talent coming in. The learning curve is far less steep than doubles and it allows these talented players to do damage at the pro level. Julian Arnold barely lost to Tardio 18-16 on the losers side as well.
On the women’s side, Anna Bright is steam rolling through like she did at Punta Gorda. She’ll play the winner of Jorja Johnson and Megan Fudge. Fudge will get a much needed rest before playing Jorja on Championship Sunday in the bronze. It also does appear that Devidze seems to run out of gas later in the day. Devidze lost to Johnson 15-2 after beating her earlier in the day.
2:00 pm EST (Gritty) – There’s a lot going on today in Delray. The entire bottom half of the draw is in flux as Zane Navratil lost to Alex Neumann and Dylan Frazier withdrew, presumably those back issues haven’t sorted themselves out from last weekend. Neumann then proceeded to lose in a close 3-game match to Ryler DeHeart, who continues to get results despite his slightly advanced age and lack of any sort of backhand groundstroke. Talent will go quite far. JW Johnson is in the semi-finals against John Cincola, but not before getting a scare from Federico Staksrud who was up 8-6 in the third against him. Staksrud is also just getting wins and will have to be in consideration for fantasy drafts going forward along with Neumann and DeHeart.
Julian Arnold, Gabe Tardio, Jack Foster and Zane are all making their way through the backdraw. Neuman was beaten by Julian Arnold as he was last weekend.
Jorja Johnson got an extremely tough draw. Salome Devidze is good and almost beat Johnson last weekend in Port Lucie. However, Anna Bright gets some revenge for the 15-6 loss last week to Devidze as she gets through 11-0, 12-10. Strong fight by Devidze after being down 8-3 in the second but she could not quite pull out game 2. Lauren Stratman had a pretty easy draw but clearly decided not to play beforehand so Megan Fudge gets a pretty clean path to the winners bracket final after a tough match with Amanda Hendry.
10:55 am EST (Gritty) – So we have a rain delay to begin the day, but not before Alex Neumann has another big upset. He beats Zane 11-6, 11-9. It’s pretty wild to think 2 weeks ago he had never had big wins and now it’s 2 weeks in a row. This could be for real? Neumann is sponsored by Crbn just for anyone who is interested. And Ryan Sherry, who has always used a Franklin Ben Johns, looked to be playing with a Crbn this morning too, but someone correct me if I’m wrong. There’s obviously something to this paddle or guys like Sherry and JW wouldn’t be using it.