Major League Pickleball (MLP) 2023 Mesa Season 1 – Live Random Thoughts
We don’t mean to sound like fan boys but there’s truly nothing like MLP. It’s really the only pro tournament/event that we are giddy about multiple days in advance. We very much enjoy watching the tournaments throughout the year, but there’s something about MLP that hits different. Anyway, we had a number of preview articles that came out this week so you can check all of those ones out as we went through the biggest storylines for Challenger, Premier and MLP as a whole.
Enjoy the action and check back in here all weekend for random thoughts on what will surely be the craziest MLP to date. With 24 teams, we can’t guarantee we’ll be able to stay on top of everything, but we will do our best to give some thoughts on the most important results.
Sunday, January 29th – Championship Sunday
9:15 pm EST – LA def. NYC (3-1) – What a run from the Mad Drops. They go undefeated, no Dreambreakers. Arnold/Parenteau sealed the win for LA over Anna/Tyson in the 2nd mixed matchup. A couple of veteran females formed the foundation for this team and got it done. Parenteau was strong the whole event and is there just something about Irina that we can’t put our fingers on? That’s 4 out of 5 MLP championships for her. She must be getting bored of it now we presume.
5:27 pm EST – Bay Area def. Utah (3-0) – In the Challenger final, the Bay Area Breakers run the slate and go undefeated for the entire tournament. Their team construction with two dynamic males, one dynamic female and an underrated Rachel Summers was so solid. They were unmatched throughout the tournament. Radzikowska was the difference maker in the women’s doubles match. Whoever realized she was an edge in this Challenger draft and didn’t let her slip past the second round made a very smart choice. Christian Alshon somehow won more tweener points in a real match. They didn’t even need their number 1 mixed team to get it done. Bay Area was clearly the best team start to finish.
4:20 pm EST – LA def. Florida (3-0) – LA, clearly a team that we underrated, take down the Smash 3-0. They were 3 very tight matches. The Florida women had multiple match points but couldn’t close a 20-14 lead then the men’s and first mixed match went into the 20s to be finished. This probably should not be totally discouraging for Florida as they were in all their matches, but they have a men’s conundrum as Collin Johns and Travis Rettenmaier switch sides to have Collin on the left part-way through their game. Julian Arnold is playing like a beast right now though. He’s attacking everything in sight and somehow he’s able to control his ultra-aggressive style in both men’s and mixed. Irina makes another final on a different team and if she’s wins another title that will be 4 out of 5 titles for her. Can’t say we would have predicted an LA vs. NYC finals, but that is the beauty of sports and MLP.
1:11 pm EST – NYC def. Seattle (3-2) – They were built for the Dreambreaker and they got it done. The NYC Hustlers do it on the back of Lacy Schneemann in the Dreambreaker, who went 7 of 9 points against Meghan Dizon. Rafa Hewett also came up clutch at 18-18 getting 3 of 4 on Loong to get to 20-18. Tyson got worked by Ben overall in the Dreambreaker but the rest of his team carried the load. The question about the Dreambreakers for us has been whether the best team needs them and NYC set up their matchups to play for a Dreambreaker. Seattle have two women who are completely untested in singles and, while Etta did fine overall, Meghan was overmatched. It was also huge for NYC to get their women’s doubles match against Seattle. Dizon has played fine but not above her level in either doubles or singles in the tournament. After a rocky 1-2, NYC has Dreambroken and energy’d their way to the finals, exactly how they would have had it scripted from the get go.
Saturday, January 27th – Premier Group Stage and Quarter-Finals
1:12 am EST – Florida def. Milwaukee (3-1) – Florida wins the battle of the double female strategy. Irvine and Johnson got the women’s match, which set them up well. Even though the men lost for Florida, their mixed teams won with Travis/Jorja and Collin/Jessie playing together. The Mashers were a 1-2 team and really didn’t ever pull it together. The Smash will play the LA Mad Drops in another double female battle on Sunday.
8:31 pm EST – New York def New Jersey (3-2) – The first quarterfinal was highly entertaining as the New York Hustlers defeated the 5’s in a dreambreaker 21-19 in what might have been the a match up of the top two dreambreaker teams. The Hustlers had to come back and win the dreambreaker after Anna Bright and Tyson McGuffin blew a 20-16 lead against Lea Jansen and James Ignatowitch. This was the 5’s fourth straight dreambreaker and their first loss in one, they had played with fire one too many times.
4:31 pm EST – Milwaukee def. California (3-0) – Wild stuff here. It appears the Milwaukee Mashers have 1-2’d their way to the playoffs. The MLP site is showing Mashers in by 0.26% on the point differential over California BLQK. That means the insane rally with the Federico tweener reset that BLQK lost may have been the difference in the Mashers pulling through as they won 21-19, 21-19 and 21-16 in their 3 matchups. It was the first match Staksrud/Koop lost together and the Mashers are not a team anyone wants to see next round. Andrei is playing like a #1 male and DJ can act as one in a 2nd mixed match while DJ is clearly better served on the right side in men’s.
LA def. Florida (3-0) – The Mad Drops may have been underrated to a degree by us. We thought this team was salvaged by their last two men’s picks but Catherine has played like a number 1 female so far. It’s hard to fully tell what either of these teams are right now. The group they are in is by far the easiest with the Newman-less Hard Eights and Frisco Clean Cause. Florida had two really tight wins against the Hard Eights in their matchup and they do not look like anything special at this point in time. It will be interesting to see the Mad Drops come up against another stronger team, but the fact that Irina/Catherine took down Jorja/Jessie has not been unnoticed.
Based on the standings shown on the website now, it will be Seattle and LA with byes. The 5’s will play NYC Hustlers in the quarters and Milwaukee gets Florida. The 5’s do not have as big a Dreambreaker advantage against NYC, although they are definitely favored overall. Milwaukee is similarly built to Florida so that should be fun to see as well.
2:50 pm EST – Seattle def. Las Vegas (3-1) – Seattle has proven to be the class of this event. They lose their women’s matchup against Las Vegas but then just rolled after that. You can see in this match that Las Vegas is limited in its ceiling most likely. They had that tight loss to ATX so they could have been in the playoffs but their mixed teams were dominated, and neither Dekel nor Yates are elite mixed players. The point differential numbers are crazy close and NYC gets by ATX to go to the playoffs over barely 1%, with Las Vegas 2% behind on point differential. ATX didn’t deserve to be in though as they just needed an NYC win and they didn’t get it.
So Cal def. Frisco (3-1) – Brutal tournament for Frisco. They lose to a team missing their first round pick 3-1 and their men’s team did not even get the one game win. This was a team most people figured was a bottom feeder and there has been nothing from this event to indicate otherwise. With So Cal, they are fortunate to get a win. Stefan Auvergne looked more than capable as a Premier player and was beastly playing with Lindsey Newman in their mixed matchup. Lindsey is a #1 mixed female. Brascia looked tentative all day, especially in women’s doubles and it seems she may have another level. A question to ask is what AJ is as a #1 male in rally scoring. AJ made a lot of mistakes across the Hard Eights 3 matches and his erratic style may not be as good a fit as we would have thought. He may be more engaged once Riley Newman is back in the picture though.
1:00 pm EST – New Jersey def. St. Louis (3-2) – This is too much for a live blog. We’ll have more about all the controversy stuff in our takeaways but let’s stick with some fun stuff to start. St. Louis has to be the #1 most likeable team at MLP this year and on the other side you probably have the most disliked team in the 5’s. Super chippy behavior, which we both find to be a lot of fun with the intensity in this format. St. Louis won both gender match-ups and that Allyce/Simone pair has been much better than we expected. The 5’s pulled out two close mixed matchups, 21-19, and forced their third Dreambreaker that they won. The 5’s team isn’t as dominant as they may have expected but their lack of consistency was not totally unexpected. The Dreambreaker ability has gone as expected, but they have played some tight Dreambreakers. We have thought you can’t build a team with multiple sub-par Dreambreaker players and that is St. Louis’ second Dreambreaker they lose. It’s not over for St. Louis as it will come down to point differential if the Mashers can beat BLQK, which is very possible. St. Louis played well, Jay Devilliers held his own, Lange went 4 in a row against Lea in round 2, Simone went 3 of her first 4 against Anna Leigh, but it was too much overall.
In terms of controversies, the 5’s have been embroiled in controversy all tournament some through their own fault, some not so much. We had Anna Leigh already overturning her own call in the first match of the day early after the 5’s got flack for some horrible calls yesterday that were overturned. Then we had a hindrance call that was (probably?) a hindrance in the Lange/Jones vs. Jansen/Ignatowich key match. Then Ignatowich was called for a loud split step as a fault that was overturned on a challenge. It was an objectively bad call on the split step but you have to think that call was the result of the 5s constant yammering and complaining on the sidelines. James had a good attitude to it all in the post-game interview. Allyce then had a half-hearted out call on a ball that was overturned as being in on review.
NYC def. ATX (3-1) – The energy of this ATX teams seems to be an issue. On paper, neither of their gender doubles teams should probably be losing to the NYC teams, but that’s what happened, especially Tardio and JW. It’s hard to say how important this stuff is but JW’s lack of intensity seems problematic when not surrounded by a team that can bring others up when times are tough. NYC. We may end up having two groups with three 1-2 teams as NYC just needs a Seattle win over Las Vegas to have a chance. Las Vegas is in and they are in.
Friday, January 26th – Challenger Playoffs and Premier Group Stage
9:40 pm EST – So we are just catching up on some of the day in terms of watching more. As you may imagine, watching every point is impossible with this many matches. We saw the AL Waters one in the first Dreambreaker and have now seen the Cassidy issue with Dow’s overhead on match point . Cassidy wanted to challenge, the ball looked in on replay, Brooklyn was out of challenges, the team captain has to initiate the challenge and Cassidy can be heard saying he wanted to challenge but he was overruled by his captain and owner. The whole point of replay is to get the call right. Sure, Brooklyn was out of challenges and you can say that’s part of the game, but they should have followed Cassidy’s lead. Win the right way. They were up 20-17 so who knows if it makes a difference, but the fact that it happened is sad. Someone should have stepped up along with Cassidy.
It sounds like there was a plethora of bad calls so if any readers want to comment, email or dm us on social media with specifics, that would be much appreciated.
9:15 pm EST – LA def. So Cal (3-0) – Rough go for the Hard Eights in their second match without Riley Newman. Outside of a desperate comeback attempt from their men after being down 20-12, they get beaten pretty handily in all of their matchups. The Mad Drops are 2-0 and that’s a great start for this team that doesn’t really have a clear weakness. Getting Thomas Wilson in the 4th round is looking more like highway robbery.
Florida def. Frisco (3-0) – Another 3-0 win for the Smash and they are moving on to the playoffs, with only seeding to be determined tomorrow against the Mad Drops. Frisco was not a team we did not expect to do well and their only shot at a win will be against the Riley Newman-less Hard Eights. Could that be the only chance they have at a win all MLP?
6:50 pm EST – Bay Area def. Atlanta (3-2) – Hunter Johnson was someone a bit hard to peg coming into Challenger because of his spotty men’s results with his brother Yates and his lack of mixed play. After his early start to the year, we had him right at the top of our list for men in Challenger and he has shown that to be the case. He and Stefan Auvergne have separated themselves out right now as potential Premier players as Hunter has carried Atlanta through this event, playing all of his mixed matches with Christine ‘don’t call me McGrath’ Trifunovic, and winning the first 4 of 5 Dreambreakers. Hunter Johnson is probably the biggest winner for the Challenger division of season . It wasn’t enough at the end of the day as the Breakers were too much in the Dreambreaker. Ewa Radzikowska is another big winner from this event so far as her power is too much for a lot of her opponents.
Utah def. Chicago (3-1) – The Slice vs. Utah was a legacy vs. newcomer matchup. The only true veteran on Chicago is Susannah Barr versus Utah that is all vets. Utah comes out on top as they win both mixed matches to seal the deal after Chicago took the women’s match and Utah took the men’s match. You have a lot of steadiness on that Utah team and it will be fun to see them go against a completely new guard team against the Breakers.
5:15 PM EST – St. Louis def Milwaukee (3-0) – This is the first real surprise of the day. Allyce/Simone have won both their matchups and when they win it sets the team up well because Erik/Jay are strong in men’s and Jay/Simone should be strong in mixed. Good win for St. Louis as the Mashers start off a disappointing 0-2 when they were up 20-17 in a Dreambreaker against the 5’s. Is St. Louis a little better than we gave them credit for?
Seattle def. NYC (3-1) – Seattle is throwing out there #2 mixed team against opposing teams #1 mixed teams so far. If those ladies can win for Seattle, this makes them close to unstoppable as it simply means Ben has to win his two matches. Sure, easier said than done as JW/Tardio had them on the ropes, but it’s a good bet, especially when you get Ben in mixed. Ben/Etta crushed Schneemann/Hewett 21-10. That puts Seattle to 2-0 and NYC to 0-2 for the day.
ATX def. Las Vegas (3-2) – The margins are so damn thin in some of these matches with the rally scoring and the freeze to traditional at 20. So many opportunities for both Yates/Stratman and Tardio/Jade in the final mixed match that ultimately ended in a Tardio/Jade 23-21 win to force a Dreambreaker. There is something so special about a Dreambreaker too. Never have you seen Gabe Tardio so fired up in your life. JW even had a fist pump on the sideline. The Kawamotos had some elite shot making in singles, which is exactly what makes the Dreambreaker so fun and volatile. ATX roll in the Drambreaker 21-7.
New Jersey def. California (3-2) – Yet again the 5’s go to a Dreambreaker. The 5’s have not been firing on all cylinders. They were banking on Anna Leigh not losing but that has not been the case as neither Igntaowich nor Patriquin have been able to win with her in mixed. They built a Dreambreaker team in the hopes that they could go 2-2 and Dreambreak their way to wins, and that has happened so far. Staksrud is proving to be very steady and versatile as he wins both his matches, including with Koop again here in mixed.
3:03 pm EST – Atlanta def. Orlando (3-2) – When you don’t have top notch male singles players on your team, the sacrificial lamb female strategy against an opponent’s top male does not appear to be a good idea. We have generally been against the sacrificial lamb strategy but there have been notable instances of it working out, see Lee Whitwell vs. Dekel Bar. However, you need other high end singles players on your team to make it work. It didn’t work yesterday for Dallas with Megan Fudge and it didn’t work today with Orlando throwing out Rachel Rettger against Hunter Johnson. Another Dreambreaker win for Atlanta, which makes 4 in a row, and another comeback where Orlando won both gender matchups. For Orlando, their men were not good enough in mixed and in singles. It’s the fear of Callan Dawson as your #1 male.
Utah def. Brooklyn (3-1) – Brooklyn won their men’s match but this came down to their women not delivering at the end of the day. The hope was that pairing a fringe-ish Premier woman in Gaytan-Leach with Carr would make them very strong and that was not the case today. You also wonder whether they may look to make a switch with Dow as the 2nd male with his lack of experience in singles and mixed. They don’t need to blow it up and may want to trust that Nunnery gets back to better form after a couple of months with consistent play. For Utah, this is a win for veteran stability, unlike what we saw with the Ranchers. Olivia McMillan is the least experienced player in this group and she is far more experienced than a lot of players in Challenger.
1:12 pm EST – Mostly expected results with some craziness mixed in for the morning. First update of the day.
Seattle def. ATX (3-0) – Not a good start for ATX. They lose all their matches and losing their mixed match with #1 JW going against their #2 mixed team, Dizon/Loong, is really not good. JW and Gabe lost 25-23 and had chances to win against Ben/Tyler, but it was not to be. Minus 1 for the energy team.
Florida def. So Cal (3-0) – There are no moral victories when it comes to MLP but it has to be somewhat encouraging that the Hard Eights were right in a match without their best player. They had game points in their women’s match and their mixed match with Auvergne/Newman playing Rettenmaier/Johnson. Koller had not his best match in men’s but it was competitive all around. 3-0 loss for them
LA Def. Frisco (3-0) – The Mad Drops win over Clean Cause 3-0. It’s not ideal when the Clean Cause men lose but Wilson/Arnold are scary, especially when it comes to rally scoring. Expected result overall.
California def. St. Louis (3-2) – Dreambreakers are not going away at MLP and we are here for it. California pulls one out over BLQK. The results basically went opposite leading to it. Erik and Allyce got a surprising mixed min after the gender doubles went to the Shock and the men’s went to BLQK. BLQK mixed their #1 and #2s up for mixed and it sort of paid off, getting the win over the Shock #1 mixed team. BLQK was a team that wanted to build a Dreambreaker squad and they win it over a team that should be the weakest in the group. It also has to feel really good for Frazier, who has struggled at MLP, to get the winning Dreambreaker point for his team.
New Jersey def. Milwaukee (3-2) – Another Dreambreaker and it was a tight one. The challenge system is great. Both the Waters are well known for bad line calls and Anna Leigh made a brutally obvious one at 14-13 for the Mashers. Thankfully, a Mashers challenge overturned the call so we didn’t have a debacle of a Dreambreaker. The 5’s win 22-20 after being down 20-17, but that is a tight Dreambreaker. Interestingly, AL did not win her mixed match with Ignatowich and there has to be some cause for concern that both the 5’s mixed teams got beat, especially their #2 team quite handily.
Las Vegas def. NYC (3-2) – A second match of the first 6 where a team won both gender and it got pushed to a Dreambreaker. NYC was supposed to be built for a Dreambreaker but Las Vegas is a balanced team all around. David/Bar squeaked a 25-23 win over Anna/Tyson because you know Dekel and mixed go together like peas and carrots. Las Vegas won 21-13 in the Dreambreaker. What a win for them.
1:23 am EST – Stefan Auvergne has been picked up by the Hard Eights. Outside of the Ranchers, all the better teams won and the Ranchers don’t have men with the upside needed. Burrows was a possibility but given how well Auvergne played it was a clear move.
Surprisingly, Megan Fudge is filling in for Maggie Brascia for BLQK. No idea what’s going on but that is unexpected.
Thursday, January 26th – Challenger Group Stage
8:43 pm EST – So much going on today. Arizona Drive don’t pull through but they play big time spoiler against the Dallas Pickleball Club, winning that matchup 3-0. Chuck Taylor has not had a fun run at MLP the last 4 events. He was put on a bad team this year and he does not get it done in mixed with their #1 female Megan Fudge. Chuck’s an interesting player. Sometimes he seems underrated, sometimes he seems overrated. The Drive are limited in upside and they may want to see if they can get a Sarah Burr upgrade for the next event. Siljestrom is so odd but he had a strong day overall. You don’t want to play him in men’s.
Brooklyn Aces are not the team we thought they would be. Nunnery in his newsletter earlier this week did not seem too thrilled about playing in Challenger but he has not showed enough today to make a Premier team believe they made a mistake not selecting him. Brooklyn went up 2-0 and then lost their next 2 mixed matches. Nunnery may simply need more time right now to get back into it, it’s only his 3rd event this year after basically taking all of 2022 off. They lose in a tight Dreambreaker, 21-19, to an Arizona team that won 3 Dreambreakers today. However, with a 1-2 record, Brooklyn backdoors their way into the playoffs after barely winning out on point differential. Might not be a team you want to see tomorrow even if they didn’t look great today.
In summary, Chicago and Bay Area will get byes and the other 4 teams moving along are Brooklyn, Orlando, Utah and Atlanta. This is exactly what we would have picked to start the day and it does not leave many options for the Hard Eights to choose from in terms of Riley Newman replacements.
6:07 pm EST – There is so much going on. Very hard to keep track. Tomorrow is going to be even harder. WE got Dreambreaker #3. Dallas vs. Atlanta. It’s funny what these things come down to. Christine McGrath ended up taking 7 of 8 points off Christa Gecheva and that was probably the difference – would not have seen that coming going into the Dreambreaker. Not sure who picked first, but it was problematic for Dallas to have Fudge against Hunter Johnson as it takes away any advantage they get to having a strong female singles player. Atlanta lsoth their gender doubles match-ups and won both their mixed matchups, with the Johnson/McGrath win over Taylor/Fudge being the most surprising result.
How about DC Pickleball? They beat Columbus and looked good against Bay Area. DC pushed it to Dreambreaker #4 with a mixed win from Bates/Auvergne over Tellez/Radzikowska. DC kept it closer than it looked on paper losing 22-20. Christian Alshon’s antics are something else. He went for a completely unnecessary tweener at 11-11 against Querrey in the Dreambreaker and lost the point. Truly perplexing what could be going through his head to go for it in that moment.
Speaking of Querrey, he was fine today and is definitely improving quickly. He held his own against Alshon in the Dreambreaker. Then, Querrey and Auvergne beat Tellez/Alshon, and he looked most comfortable in men’s with Stefan. We had Auvergne as a first-round men’s pick and he is worthy of that. DC is very lucky Auvergne fell as they have a #1 in Auvergne, and a #2 who is fine in Querrey. Imagine if they made a real #1 overall pick. DC ends 1-2 and Bay Area at 3-0.
Oliva McMillan and Michelle Esquivel smoked Milan Rane and Becky Ryan. That Becky Ryan selection was questionable at the time and is looking more questionable. Columbus overall is a poorly built team and with their loss to DC, it appears they may be the worst team in this group. Tough go for them with an 0-3 start to Challenger. Utah gets the 3-1 win in this matchup and they are through to the next round.
The Ranchers have a very disappointing day losing 3-0 to the Chicago Slice. Their men’s team went 0-3 and women’s team was 1-2. Deakin/Erokhina were up 20-13 in their mixed match and ended up losing 22-20. The Ranchers looked about as safe as a team could for Challenger and it shows there’s nothing safe in MLP. Chicago is 3-0 and Ranchers 1-2.
Finally, we have the Miami team going 0-3 after their 3-0 loss to the Orlando Squeeze. Shockingly, Manasse does not get it done for Miami. Orlando was an interesting team going into the weekend without a true alpha on their team but they are through to the playoffs.
4:03 pm EST – Miami with a more expected result in their second match of the day, losing 3-1 to Chicago. Their women played well, beating Ackerman/Barr, but the rest of the matches were lost by them. Manasse/’Goldberg almost got their mixed match due to a lot of errors from Ackerman, but it was not to be. Emily Ackerman has a ton of raw ability but there’s also a ton of errors in her game right now. There could be some volatile matches for this Chicago women’s team. Garnett is a scary player. That backhand is nuts. Chicago is 2-0, Miami is 0-2.
We got another Dreambreaker with the Ranchers and Squeeze, with the Squeeze winning 21-15. Callan Dawson is about as awkward as you would expect in singles. It didn’t matter for the Squeeze as the Ranchers collective lack of singles proved to be overly problematic. Lee Whitwell went 2 for 9 against Bobbi Oshiro and that unsustainable magic can’t be around forever.
The doubles has been fascinating for the Ranchers. Their men have gone 0-2 so far and they won both their mixed matches against the Squeeze. Oshiro needs to take more court playing with Rettger on those middle balls. In mixed, Todd Fought was not happy with Lee Whitwell’s cheering as well. He got very mad at her celebrating a let cord, which is pretty ridiculous of him in this energy event. Regardless, Fought/Oshiro blew a lead to close it out after being up 16-11 and Fought is an example of maybe why you want a player with a little bit of big match pickleball experience.
The match was not streamed but the Bay Area Breakers beat Utah Black Diamonds 3-1. Bay area are the class of their group it looks like and they are in control right now at 2-0.
2:00 pm EST – Rough start for the Brooklyn Aces. They lose 3-0 to the Dallas Pickleball Club with Brandon French winning both of his matches. Brooklyn decided to put Nunnery with Carr and that did not pay off as they lost to Dallas’ #2 mixed team, French and Gecheva, 21-16. Nunnery wrote in his newsletter that Gaytan-Leach is pregnant as well. He didn’t say how far along but if this team is not going to win it’s gender doubles, it is big time trouble. Nunnery/Dow put up a fight after being down a bunch of match points, but could not pull it out. If French is going to hold up, this Dallas team could be quite scary.
We got our first Dreambreaker in the 6th match of the day. Arizona was not built for a Dreambreaker and they end up losing badly 21-11 with Hunter Johnson leading the way for Atlanta. Having 3 non-singles player and 1 average singles player on your team is problematic, but that’s how Arizona is built. In terms of the dobules, teams are doing a lot of putting their #1 male and #2 female. Atlanta did this with Hunter and Chstine ‘don’t call me McGrath’ Trifunovic, but it didn’t work out for them as they lost to Siljestrom/Burr. Siljestrom is so interesting in mixed. He has limitations with his movement but man with his size he can do some weird stuff on the court that no one is used to seeing. SIljestrom won both his matches in this and you can’t ask for much more from him.
11:58 am EST – MLP wasn’t able to get their 4 court streaming up to start the day so we had the two matches on Championship and Grandstand. Hopefully their new scoring page on the website can get sorted out as we can’t see actual match scores for Challenger. Otherwise, it’s going to be impossible to keep track of things. Anyway, teams look very nervous early on from what we saw on the streams. For most of these players, it is their first chance in this MLP format and it is apparent with the number of mistakes and errors. How much of that is the fact they are 2nd and 3rd tier players and how much is due to nerves is tough to say, but not the best pickleball early on.
People may not be giving Querrey enough credit for how good he can probably be. DC lose 3-1 and Querrey went 0-2, but he looked fine. Not close to being a number 1 pick, but fine. He speeds pretty much anything up that is high and sometimes it goes well, sometimes it doesn’t. Stefan Auvergne looked strong as he won DC’s only game with Shelby Bates over Esquivel and Smith. Smith looked nervous in both his matches.
Bay Area looked strong to start, winning 3-1. They have two higher end mixed players and that’s going to give them the advantage in a lot of their matchups. Both their men (Alshon/Tellez) and women (Radzikowska/Summers) won, but Christian Alshon did not win his mixed match with Rachel Summers. Alshon may need to cut out some of the tweener king stuff. Up 5-1 in his mixed match, he hit a tweener of a dink and lost the point. It’s one thing to do it in singles when iti’s your own tournament, but coach Crandall cannot be loving that in a team environment. It’s unnecessary and selfish. It doesn’t hurt them to win as Tellez/Radzikowska beat the #2 mixed team, Klinger/Ryan, 21-13 to take the matchup.
We didn’t have the stream and tough to figure out from the website, but it looks like Chicago beat Orlando and the Ranchers beat Miami. The one thing we saw is that the Ranchers actually lost their men’s match to Miami, which is pretty surprising. Good win for Manasse and Warnick, but they lose 3-1 so tough start for the women of Miami. It looks like Chicago may have won 3-1, but we could be wrong.
2:00 am EST – It is only Challenger teams playing on day one. There are 4 matches happening at 11am EST, but after that there are only two matches at a time in each time slot with matches scheduled every hour until 7pm EST.
There are some tidbits readers may want to be aware of. All of the matches will be streamed in some capacity. The two main courts, Championship and Grandstand, will be streamed on YouTube with commentators and multiple camera angles. There will also be up to 6 courts playing at the same time and the side courts will be streamed through MLP’s website apparently. The side courts will be a baseline camera only with a scoreboard. In a big win for fans, the semi-finals and finals will be aired on Tennis Channel WITH a simulcast stream on YouTube.
A few other notes. Point differential percentage (points won minus points lost divided by total points), not total game wins, will be the tiebreaker for getting out of the group stage for teams that have the same record. MLP is developing its own tournament ball but it will not be ready for this Mesa Event. They have decided to go with the Franklin X-40 due to the cold mornings that are expected. Finally, MLP is not playing let serves anymore just like the PPA.
89 thoughts on “Major League Pickleball (MLP) 2023 Mesa Season 1 – Live Random Thoughts”
Hey fellas, love the blog.
Quick question, how are the mixed matchups determined? I understand each team selects the partnerships but how is their opponent decided. Thanks!
Coin flip for home and away team. One team chooses mixed matchup other team gets to match up in Dreambreaker if it gets there
There’s nothing more tedious than criticizing broadcasts, but nonetheless 🙂 — I really wish they had names during the Dreambreaker! This is a lot of new people to learn/recognize.
Alshon has a ton of talent but he just hit a terrible and unnecessary tweener against Querrey at 11-11 in the dream breaker that lost him the point. I’d be so frustrated if I was a teammate or owner.
Agreed 1 million percent
If you were GM for the Hard Eights, who would you pick to fill Riley’s spot?
Stefan. Other option was Wes but has to be Stefan
I agree with Kevin M. The only thing I want to know is who is filling in for Riley and what do you think of the choice from those available?
I watched a tiny bit and it was very obvious who the experienced players were versus those whose faces I couldn’t even recognize.
This means that Adam Stone essentially drafted Stefan Auvergne with the sixth pick in the premier draft… for this event.
We will have to see how the scoring adds up, but right now I think the 8s should have drafted Dylan…
That is one way of looking at it
Riley Newman is on the team but couldn’t make this event. Stefan was chosen from the challenger league to replace him.
Ignore 😂 I didn’t read the previous comments.
The cities seem silly. I would be surprised if more than one of the Milwaukee mashers have ever even been to Milwaukee.
The standings on the mlp page are so counterintuitive. A team that has gone 2-0 is ranked behind a team that has gone 1-0, if the latter has a higher percentage points won, even though the former is undeniably in a better position.
( Whoops, I didn’t mean this as a reply to you)
Some kinks still to work out on their website
Maybe. It’s a long term play though
I was thinking the same thing, eliminate the cities. Especially when the event is played in Mesa Arizona.
Alshon has become my favorite player to watch, and the Hustle’s women are fun to watch too. Total domination in the Dreambreaker.
The cities make things more relatable and are a long-term play we still think.
Alshon is a showman that is for sure. Schneemann came up huge overall.
They need to have a one point penalty for out calls being overturned. Way too much a freeroll for players to call the close ones out under the current format in big points.
There has to be something
As to questionable sportsmanship, there were a couple pretty bad line calls in the 5s comeback dreambreaker win over the Mashers. Waters called a ball out that was on the inside of the line. It got overturned by replay – no big deal I guess. But shortly after that, Ignatowich had a ball fly by him, he couldn’t turn to see it in time so couldn’t tell for sure. He was waffling on what to call it, and his team convinced him to call it out – so he did. On replay, the frame rate was too low to see the ball touching the ground, but by the trajectory it was obviously going to touch the middle of the line. Yet due to the bad frame rate they decided they had to stick with the original call and wouldn’t overturn. With a correct call, they would have been down 21-16 a rally or two later after a Patriquin error, and lost. Instead, it was just 20-17 at that point, after which the 5s scored on 5 straight rallies and won. A sketchy call made by people off the court, plus poor video equipment, made the difference between a win and a loss.
Thanks for sharing
Did Chicago beat Utah? “Chicago def. Utah (3-1) – ”
Chicago with the best logo in the league.
That’s an error as shown in the blurb. Thanks
For those wondering how to catch up with some of the matches, Jack’s blog has the timeline plus the team members. https://pickleballarchives.blogspot.com/ Makes it a little easier to find a match of the player that you want to watch. I still get so frustrated with the MLP site because I know how easy (being in the business) they could make it user-friendly.
They still have work to do for the site
Just FYI Seattle beat NYC 3-1, not 3-0. Tyler and Meghan lost their mixed.
Adam Stone is a pretty good commentator, but it’s weird to see someone who has talked so much s$#% about these players call the games, or not disclose he’s a manager of a team, etc.
We didn’t listen to it all. Did he not say he assisted Hard Eights? It seems like it’s fine to talk about players and be a commentator. Nothing wrong with that end of things. We think commentators should be more open about players but understand how difficult that can be when you have to see them in person and interview them.
Adam Stone has talked a slot of crap about the players? oh do share, the pickleball world loves the gossip haha
There may not be a better team atmosphere than the Shock! Who wouldn’t want Jones on their sideline. And Simone with some “fountain of youth” new found power on the left side. The wonder of MLP!
Total agreement here. They went 1-2 but it was a super fun 1-2. Would have loved to see them make it through.
Seeing Becky Ryan out there playing is the second biggest joke of MLP with Rachel Summers being number one. Just awful use of picks by the people in charge. IMO, they need to be cut to make way for real players. Seeing them out there is a huge injustice to actual deserving players. Might as well get more Sam Queery’s out there or that guy who wears that cheeseburger suit. At least he’s entertaining to watch.
What’s wrong with Summers? Her team is playing for the championship…
Agree with this. We had not seen Summers play so she was not on our board. We have both been impressed. She is definitely worthy of this field. It was a good pick.
As commented to Cody, Summers seems like a good pick. Becky Ryan may have been viable as a top 48 selection. We think she was. But you can’t have her as a 2nd round pick and build your team around her. Who else would you have had in there for women though? There’s not much around. Again, Ryan should have been drafted later but there’s not much better out there.
I cannot believe it!!!!!!
Milwaukee vs BLQK women. 20-20 ref calls a foot fault in Callie, and it’s challenged. THEY SHOW THE WRONG REPLAY BECAUSE THEY COULDNT FIND THE RIGHT ONE!!! OMG ARE YOU SERIOUS?!?!
You know it’s wrong because after the ahot where her foot is close the play continues and she hits a dink after!!! That’s not the same play!!!
If the refs actually hugged it based on that clip I am furious and somebody needs to be held accountable.
*judged not hugged
That review also took way too long. We can’t be having 10 minute reviews when it’s 20-20 or 21-20, or in the middle of Dreambreakers. Feels like an NBA game.
Joseph, I’m not convinced the refs even knew where to look during that long rally. I thought Callie could have been on the line in a prior hit than the one they were showing on review. Because the review took so long when most reviews were much shorter, I think they were trying to find the right place in the rally. We don’t know what they looked at but hopefully the entire rally.
A weird one for sure
8/12 teams had a losing record.
That is actually insane. Indicates it is top heavy with certain teams and the rest are all a jumbled mess.
Statistically, it’s not remotely insane! 12 teams is not a lot and 3 games is absolutely nothing… for example, you could look at the NFL divisional standings after 3 weeks, and you could easily find 3 groups of 4 that would 8/12 teams with winning or losing records.
That’s a fair comment. It’s just a weird thing to have two 1-2 teams make a playoff and be rewarded as the Hustlers have for sub-par group play. But that’s how the World Cup is.
Anyone know prize money for Premier league winners? I have seen the 5 million alluded to for all 6 events including both Premier and Challenger levels.
Not exactly sure.
“most disliked” 5’s? I haven’t looked at social media or streaming comments so maybe that is what fed this comment. Certainly the audience seemed to like what they were seeing in the 5’s. You didn’t mention the decision to put James on the right with Lea on the left when they were down 11-16. From all the talking James was doing during the time-out before the switch, it seemed to be his idea. It totally changed things around and what led to the Dreambreaker against St. Louis. The dreambreaker was absolutely electric. The ref call on James split step was bizarre. With all the antics I’ve seen from players it would never even occur to me to evaluate a split step as an antic. Wouldn’t that be a distraction and not a hindrance though? I’m glad it was over-turned so that a precedent was not set. I also enjoyed the dreambreaker the 5s had against Hustlers, especially AL beating her chest a la McGuffin. The seating seemed to really thin out after that match so both teams may have been an audience favorite.
It’ll be interesting to see your takeaways on the 5’s because Lea seemed to really have to force herself to cheer AL. But by the end of the day, she seemed to have gotten past that and the team had better enthusiasm.
it would seem that way from YT comments and just generally the way teams feel toward them from what we are seeing on the broadcast. A lot of antics and complaining. This may not exactly be a takeaway. In general, there is too much from the benches and impacting the pace of play.
I was of the opinion that Ben Johns should have been the number one pick and I still feel that way. I get the value in having strong women as the depth really drops off, but Ben is just able to take so much pressure off his partners and allow them to cover such a small amount of court that it’s hard to imagine a team with him on it not making it out of the first round. That doesn’t even include being a favorite to likely win 80% of his points against 95% of the field in a dream breaker, something I don’t believe his team has even needed yet.
While I’m doing hot takes I think AL’s “dominant players don’t have to play the left” theory seems pretty flimsy after this weekend as well. It looked like opposing teams had no trouble completely making her a non factor in doubles. The middle backhand just doesn’t have the same reach as the forehand and you just can’t dictate points with it the same way a left side player can with their forehand. I don’t care how heavily a team is targeting your partner a great left side player still manages to have their finger prints all over the game
James was able to do it in his mixed match playing on the right side, but he is a very big guy who is super fast, hard to make it work otherwise. Riley can do it while playing with Lindsey for example. Not easy.
Riley can do it, but his bh is very different form than anyone else’s. He seems like he can hit that inside out dink to the corner that really lets you force the ball to come back to you and has your opponent lift dinking. Most can’t make that shot with a traditional two hander but the odd way he hits his backhand seems to make it work. His lateral movement is also insane. Collin Johns has tried to be the dominant player on the right in many tournaments and never found a podium despite being as good as it gets on the right.
James was able to do it for a small stretch today but it seemed like he was mostly just speeding up off the bounce at Anna Bright and she had no answer for that. It worked but I’m not sure it’s sustainable as you’d imagine people would adjust pretty quickly if he doesn’t have more options than that shot from that situation. It was a great comeback but also a very small sample.
It can be done and we still think it could be a viable strategy in the long-term to change things up and isolate things more. It still isn’t happening in mixed but we have to think it won’t stay traditional forever
The men can do it better than the women especially with those two handers
I agree with Ben (or Riley if he wasn’t missing an event) as the two most valuable players. Like you said, having strong women is important because of the lack of depth but players like Ben and Riley are capable of almost single handedly winning gender and mixed matches against most teams because of their ability to take so much court, something that the women, even ALW as good as she is, struggles to do.
If you get the first pick in the draft and take Anna Leigh Waters, she has to do better than 3-3 in doubles matches. In the quarterfinals, ALW and Hayden Patriquin played Rafa Hewitt and Lacy Schneemann. Patriquin was making errors so Hewitt/Schneemann just kept hitting the ball to him over and over and over. Patriquin must have hit the ball into the net or out of bounds fifteen times in the game. It was bad. All Anna Leigh could do was stand there on the right side and watch as the game went down the toilet. The 5s really squeaked by in all of their matches. ALW just wasn’t the major factor the number one pick should be. A dominant male player like Ben Johns should clearly be the number one pick in the next draft.
This is a question we had as to how she would do with lesser men, and it has not gone well. In mixed, it is still hard for that female to carry the load. Neither team has made the finals, which is interesting.
While Ben Johns should probably be the first pick in the draft, it’s worth noting that the two finalist Premier teams in the first MLP event both took a top female as their first pick.
That is a fair point, especially with a Catherine/Irina duo we did not expect to do that well.
We also feel that way. He didn’t get to the finals either but he has completely done his part. He almost lost a men’s match against JW but otherwise has been undefeated in all his matches and worked Tyson pretty good in the Dreambreaker. There’s only so much a female can do in doubles. As good as AL is, she can only do it in women’s doubles at this point and not in mixed.
So many takeaways from a great day of pickleball but one that that stood out to me is how much Callie’s game has really stagnated. If you want to speed everything up to her she still has great hands but if you get her into dink exchanges she’s so vulnerable because of her inconsistent dinking and her inability/unwillingess to hit a backhand roll. I’ve felt this way for much of last year but it seems to be getting more apparent all the time as the other women continue to improve and she hasn’t.
She has limited stuff she can do off her backhand as you noted and can’t initiate well off that side. There has not been enough improvement it appears to be.
Any know when the semis starts, thought it was supposed to be 9 am mst?
That is when it is supposed to. No stream so far and no socials update
Ok cool, was going crazy trying to find the stream! Very excited for todays matches
Looks like today’s matches are being broadcast on the Tennis Channel. 🙁
It is now being streamed.
Remember how many people lectured about how singles shouldn’t matter because you might not get to the Dreambreaker? 🤣
We have come around on the Dreambreakers but we still had wondered whether it is absolutely vital. The Hustlers barely made it out of their division and we have two teams on the other side of the draw who have not played a Dreambreaker this event. Still a volatile thing but there has to be some mind to it undoubtedly!
I actually think it’ll be much more important for the bottom picks, particularly in a snake draft. No one’s ever gonna turn down Riley because he doesn’t play singles, but e.g Dizon got so brutalized in singles it looked like she’d never even played before…
It was tough for Meghan out there yesterday.
Catherine Parenteau is a rockstar defender. Late in the mixed match she got a couple ball back over the net that were real wowzers.
Defence is her calling card for sure.
If Irina’s team pulls this off, somebody smarter than me needs to analyze what she does in this format that gives her a competitive advantage over players who are allegedly better than her. Her repeated success cannot be a coincidence anymore.
In the finals, Irina seemed to position herself well for the return by reading the ball and court well. Then she got dialed in on a few rallies and even overtook Catherine when needed to keep playing the ball. I thought sometimes Irina should have done some resets instead of ripping it to better set up some team play. But in the end their team wins and that is all that matters.
Agreed. We can’t quite figure it out beyond that she seems to just perform better at MLP.
Amazing event!! It seems inevitable that rules will be coming on who can be on the court. The Hustlers coach/owner/manager guy arguing with the referee during the match was out of line. I think the players allowed to coach and be on the court is great, but just the players.
We wrote about this in our takeaways. It is too much right now.
My takeaways from MLP:
1) ALW vs Ben at #1: I think this weekend demonstrated my argument for Ben over ALW as the first pick. While ALW might be further ahead of her peers than Ben is, he can still take over a court in a way that ALW, despite being very athletic, simply can’t. I believe Ben went undefeated for the weekend while ALW wasn’t able to alleviate pressure on Hayden, James, or Lea in the same way he can.
2) Importance of team energy. Outside of the Pioneers, some of the most fiery teams (Mad Drops, Hustlers, Smash) ruled the weekend
3) Irina just keeps on winning. I know she has benefitted from some late draft steals (Parris, Julian, Thomas) but you can’t argue her MLP results.
4) Julian Arnold MVP. Has he found a new level or will continue to be a dangerous opponent that flashes elite ability but lacks the consistency to reach a lot of podiums in doubles.
5) Mad Drop Dominance. 15-1 on the weekend. Unreal.
Great takeaways 👍
Jared: Your #2 showed in who got into the semis and won them. Teams with the most energy and team spirit – shared by the owners – seem to dominate at MLP. NML wasn’t sure which comes first – the wins or the energy. Probably either – depends on the team. At some MLP, I don’t see the energy until late – either QF or in one past event not until semi’s. But the Hustlers had it early in this event – how could they not with Rafa on the team.
Seems Bay Area (the geographic identifiers seem silly) with Alshon and Tellez were really fired up and won as well.
The energy appeared to be a big factor yet again so we definitely cannot discount it as coincidence at this point.
I mean, you could be right, but if you’re making a claim about ALW v BJ *specifically*, it’ll be tough to ever have enough data on two specific individuals to really say. There’s so many other factors (what if they hadn’t wasted their second pick on Ignatowich when Rafa, Arnold, and Wilson were still available!!), and in the end, Ben’s team went 3-1 and ALW’s team went 3-1, with both teams falling to the Hustlers in the DB. But if you’re making a claim about using a first, high pick on a man versus a woman:
* Only 3 of the 12 teams used their top two picks on women, but all 3 of those teams made it to quarters, 2 of the 3 made it to semis (and Mashers were against Smash in the quarters, so that limited how many could advance to semis), and one were the eventual winners.
* Only 1 team picked two men first, and they were the only team to go 0-3 in pool play (Frisco).
* JW Johnson was the #3 pick, and his team did poorly, going 1-2 overall. It’s wild cherry-picking to overfit to the results of the #2 pick but ignoring the outcome for the #3 pick.
I think another point to the ALW vs. BJ debate is that even though we think BJ is the way to go at #1, the 5’s have not put the best team around ALW to succeed on the men’s side. She flip flopped between playing with James and Hayden and did not have great success with either, and neither of the guys had a ton of success together.
JW is a step or two below BJ, especially at these MLP events where his lack of intensity may really be a detriment (still TBD on that though). There’s lots of cherry picking that is always going to be done as with limited events and only 3 matches for some teams at these events, there’s a lot that can go different ways with razor thin margins. Appreciate all your insights and thinking on these topics!
Love it! Thanks for the thoughtful comments. We stole some of this stuff with Irina and Julian Arnold so you can see our thoughts there. We also agree on the BJ point.
Team energy we are not quite as sold on at this point but there is still something to be said for the fact this continues to be a theme at MLP.