APP Tour Indianapolis Open – Live Blog

It’s a busy June for the APP with the first of 3 consecutive weekend stops in Indianapolis. Apparently, Dominic Catalano gets to sleep in a van for the next 23 days. This tournament is hosted by Zane Navratil, Altaf Merchant and Rick Witsken. It’s a smaller field relative to what we have seen from both the PPA and the APP so far this year. Although it is a particularly strong field at the top for the men’s senior pro division with top end teams in Dave Weinbach / Rick Witsken, Mircea Morariu / John Sperling and Dan Granot / Mills Miller. Our pro division fantasy draft preview thing can be found here if you’re curious on how we saw the field shake out before the tournament started.

Our understanding is that there is only going to be one stream from the APP Tour as opposed to the two that they have set the standard for. This is definitely unfortunate as we have applauded the APP since we started this blog for setting the streaming standard. While we gather this may not have been the choice of the APP, the people who are making these types of decisions for tournaments need to understand it is a long game with pickleball. Get the streams to allow this to grow in the years to come.

Sunday, June 6 – Mixed Doubles

4:50 pm EST (Slim) – Wow! Johnson and Jansen cap their massive weekend with a gold! Very, very impressive stuff. We will have more later

2:25 pm EST (Slim) – Lea Jansen and JW Johnson’s massive weekends continue, as they take down Stratman and Smith in straight games, after losing to Stratman and Smith earlier in the day 11-2, 11-3. In this match Jansen and Johnson came out firing and never really looked back. Stratman and Smith never really looked like themselves, and you have to wonder what effect Smith’s knee injury may have been having on their play, but you have to give all credit to Jansen and Johnson.

12:50 pm EST (Slim) – Andrea Koop and Zane Navatril have cruised to the gold medal match, handling Smith and Stratman easily in the winner’s final, 11-7, 11-4. On the loser’s side we have Lea Jansen and JW Johnson a team I was high on coming in to the tournament, coming off an impressive 15-13 victory over Nunnery and Esquivel, playing Ansboury and Hewett to go to the bronze medal match.

Obviously this bracket and field changed substantially with the loss of Stone and Carr, as Adam was not able to go today after dealing with cramping and exhaustion yesterday. Whenever the favorites drop out of the field things change substantially. This is a recurring theme for Stone as he was also forced to pull out the Florida tournament mixed a few months a go after cramping in men’s playing with Dekel. Hopefully he is able to figure out something that works for his body.

10:46 am EST (Gritty) – Thank goodness we sold that Jay Devilliers stock going into mixed day. Ansboury/Hewett have shown the capability to knock off higher end opponents on the right day so it’s not a big shock when Jay Devilliers loses with Regina Franco after playing a ridiculous amount over the past couple of days.

Saturday, June 5 – Gender Doubles

7:40 pm EST (Slim) – Jansen and Stratman beat Carr and Koop in three games to take gold in the women’s doubles final, giving them their second straight APP gold. Other than a slight blip in the second game of this match, Jansen and Stratman looked like the dominant women’s all day. I thought this was the best I’ve ever seen Jansen look in doubles, as she looked to be the dominant player on the court all day. She looked particularly comfortable playing on that left side and taking a lot of court. As they seem to have a fair bit of momentum going, I have to imagine Jansen and Stratman are a little disappointed that they won’t be playing together for the rest of June.

In the senior men’s pro doubles the gold medal match went to a game to 15, as Gritty had predicted earlier, with Morariu/Sperling pulling off an impressive victory over Witsken/Weinbach. Like Gritty I can’t call it a surprise, as Morariu/Sperling are super solid players, but it speaks to the new depth of the senior men’s division, that a team like Witsken/Weinbach losing is not a shocking upset.

6:26 pm EST (Gritty) – Nunnery/Stone lose the 2 out of 3 in straights and then a tight game to 15. In our opinion, an egregious miscalculation of strategy with no adjustment. Smith was very noticeably struggling with a knee injury and couldn’t move well at all yet they actively chose to keep playing balls to Devilliers. I can’t understand this strategy other than to say Smith/Devilliers wanted Nunnery to see most of the balls and Nunnery insisted on dinking cross court to Devilliers. Unreal. Big ups to Jay who had to take a lot of court after a grueling singles day yesterday. We are selling Devilliers/Franco stock in mixed tomorrow for anyone who wants to buy.

4:10 pm EST (Gritty) – Jansen and Stratman beat Carr and Koop to go to the gold match. It never felt like they were going to lose this one. I feel like I have said it at some point since we started this blog but Jansen’s backhand roll continues to improve. She missed a few of them in this match but this is a definite edge for her in the women’s game. A lot of the women have 2-hand backhands and I feel like this leads a higher percentage of women not to add a backhand roll that has become a must in pickleball over the past couple of years (I’m just thinking out loud about this right now). Neither Koop or Carr can really do anything at the net off their backhands, which means you can safely dink to whoever is on the left side. Jansen also appears to be adding a backhand roll off the bounce and if she can start putting those balls in different spots rather than just down the middle it’s going to be dangerous for a team that wants to be very aggressive.

3:06 pm EST (Gritty) – Nunnery and Stone almost blew their chance to take the match to a game 3 after a number of missed thirds on game points before eventually taking game 3. They burst out to 7-0 lead in game 3 and didn’t look back from there. Again, I have to wonder how Devilliers body is feeling after yesterday. On the loser’s side of the draw, Merchant/Navratil are in the bronze, which is the expected pre-tournament result.

On the senior pro side, I wouldn’t say I am surprised that Morariu/Sperling beat Witsken/Weinbach, but it is a very good win for them on the winner’s side. It’s a two horse race there and that one going to the game to 15 wouldn’t be surprising either.

Looking forward to the women’s winner’s bracket final as Koop/Carr looked like they played a tight one 9 and 9 against a team they should be beating handily in Ansboury/Charity. I (sort of) had Stratman/Jansen slightly ahead of Koop/Carr but did not feel great about that. This one could go either way.

11:22 am EST (Gritty) – I think it’s a testament to the abilities JW Johnson and Dylan Frazier that they rolled Rob Cassidy and Ernesto Fajardo 3 and 5. That’s a solid team and I’ll be intrigued to see how they do against Devilliers/Smith – Devilliers body cannot be in good shape after yesterday’s barn burner of a singles gold match.

Navratil and Merchant move on after playing 1.5 tough games against Cincola/Andrews. Merchant obviously does incredibly well for his age but he needs to find a way to not play so far off the line when dinking. I know this is how he plays but this seems like a fairly straightforward fix he could make to his game to make him more dangerous.

1:14 am EST (Gritty) – I just wanted to take a moment to note the silver by Todd Fisher barely, barely, barely losing to Rick Witsken. Fisher has some decent results at senior pro but nothing to indicate he would smoke him in 2 straight then play him super tough all the way through to the game to 15. Impressive run from Fisher and it’s too bad there was no 2nd stream from the APP for us to see this.

Friday, June 4 – Singles

6:40 pm EST (Slim) – In the men’s final, Jay Devilliers won an epic match, 21-19 in the game to 15 against Zane Navatril. It was a match that was full of momentum swings with both players at times looking like they were going to pull away. Zane unfortunately was suffering some cramping during the last few points of the match, I don’t think he wanted to take an injury time given the stage of the match and the fact he would probably be risking his body completely seizing up. Jay’s ability to handle Zane’s serve, really levels the playing field for him against Zane.

In the women’s final, Lea Jansen took gold beating Lauren Stratman 11-8, 11-6. After a very slow start in the semi-finals against Lauren, Lea really took care of business the rest of the day, looking like the dominant female singles player in the field. I have to wonder if we won’t be seeing Lauren in more APP singles events now, with their point standings, definitely rewarding playing all three events, and she has shown she can podium.

5:10 pm EST (Slim) – Lauren Stratman’s big singles day continues with her beating Michelle Esquivel in the bronze medal match, in three games. It will be interesting to see if she regain some of her form from the first half of her match against Lea Jansen, when they meet again in the gold medal match. In the men’s bronze medal match it appeared that Ryan Sherry had run out of steam of steam against Jay Devilliers.

4:05 pm EST (Gritty) – The Women’s podium is set and it does go how we expected. Sydney Sonday somehow almost took down Michelle Esquivel earlier in the day but otherwise Yana Grechkina was not the threat we thought she could be losing handily to Esquivel and Stratman – a motivated Stratman at that I am assuming based on my Yana comments in the fantasy draft. Outside of a late charge from Esquivel, Jansen controlled the match. I am quite happy with this outcome as it gives me a great start to the fantasy weekend (lord knows I need it).

3:15 pm EST (Slim) – we are into the medal matches for the men. Zane Navatril is looking very strong today and handled Jay Devilliers in two games, and Ryan Sherry who we know can play with anyone, but often loses steam later in the day managed to battle back against JW Johnson to make it to the bronze medal match against Jay. I had wondered going into the day, if a slightly smaller draw might help Sherry reach the podium and it seems like it did, but you have to give him credit for battling back against JW after falling down 12-8 in the match. It was also nice to see JW have a good day in singles, and hopefully we will continue to see his singles game progress as there is no denying he has plenty of talent.

On the women’s side, the winner’s bracket final is set with the top two seeds reaching it in Lea Jansen and Michelle Esquivel, but neither made it without some difficulty. After dropping the first set 11-0, to frequent training partner Lauren Stratman, Lea also fell behind early in game 2 and seemed to be in big trouble, but to her credit she kept battling and Lauren cooled off a bit and she was able to come back and win the second and third games 11-6, 11-5. Lea is also work on some sort of spin serve, something we have not seen a lot of in the women’s game, and I like seeing that innovation. Michelle Esquivel almost lost her first match against, relative newcomer Sydney Sonday, having to win the third game 12-10.

On the women’s loser side, I am very curious to see if Lana Grechkina can give Lauren Stratman a good match, in the game to go to bronze.

12:25 pm EST (Slim) – We’ve got the winner’s side bracket final that I think we were all expecting of Jay Devilliers versus Zane Navatril, and it will be interesting to see who comes out on top in this match up. Zane seems to have his serve popping (or should I say hopping) today, but as I’ve noted before, Jay seems to handle Zane’s serve better than anyone. I am curious as he heads to the back draw, how much Sherry has left in the tank. If he’s able to find some extra gas I think there is a bronze there for him today, but he looked very tired against Jay.

11:49 am EST (Slim) – Zane Navatril takes down JW Johnson pretty easily in two games, with his serve making the big difference, as it was causing all kinds of problems for JW. JW was also using his own version of the chainsaw serve. We are seeing more and more players using and experimenting with the chainsaw serve but I am yet to see any other players get the same consistent kick from their serve that Zane gets.

11:17 am EST (Slim) – The men’s semi-finals are set with JW Johnson taking on Zane Navatril in one match up, and Ryan Sherry taking on Jay Devilliers in the other semi-final. JW was able to take out John Cincola in two games, 11-8 and 11-7, which is a very good win for him. JW’s single results have been a little disappointing this year, but he had some good wins in Cincinnati and you have to wonder if he might be finding his stride in the singles game, so the Zane match will be interesting to watch. After pulling out a 12-10 win over Ryan Sherry in the first game, Jack Foster seemed to lose it a bit mentally and dropped the next two games 11-4, 11-3 to Ryan Sherry. Jack seems to have a lot of work to do on the mental side of the game, no word if he is taking to tips from Sherry or not… I also thought Dom Catalano made a good point on the broadcast that Foster should’ve been playing less balls to Sherry’s backhand as it is tough to read.

10:15 am EST (Slim) – so far the men’s singles bracket has been pretty chalky. The Ryan Sherry versus Jack Foster and JW Johnson versus John Cincola quarter-final match ups are both interesting to me. I am curious to see if young JW can make the very solid John Cincola work. I favor Sherry versus Jack Foster, but Jack has a lot of momentum with his last couple of tournaments.

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