Major League Pickleball (MLP) Columbus – Live Random Thoughts

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MLP has made a small, but not insignificant, change to their scheduling for the final event of the year. Instead of playing the quarter-finals on the Saturday, all the playoff matches will be played on Sunday. This means there won’t be a long break between the semi-finals and the finals, and that’s better for fans as well as players, who should be sharper without the big gap between matches. (Edit: Looks like no changes. Quarter-Finals Saturday Night with Semis and Finals on Sunday).

Keep it locked here all weekend for quick hit thoughts and analysis on the action. You can see all of our recent MLP posts with group lottery draw analysis and 5 big questions as well as takes on the LeBron and Brady news.

Sunday, October 15th – Semis and Finals

9:42 pm EST – It looked like we might get an upset as the Hard Eights got a big win in their women’s match, but the men got beaten pretty easily 21-14. The men’s match was the possible slight edge advantage the Hard Eights had but Rafa and Zane came out swinging and did not stop. Cierra had trouble with Irina straight on in front of her and Yates was maybe a bit overzealous in how much he was looking to insert himself. Parris and Zane played steady throughout while Jorja and Andrei played decently, but some ill-timed speed ups from both may have been the difference.

BLQK are now champions for the second time this year with this team and the third time in four MLP events. Quite the run in this crazy fun venture that has been created. Irina is the winningist player in MLP history too. We’ll have takeaways tomorrow at some point. Thanks all for following along once again!

2:21 pm EST – What to even say? The Hard Eights made moves in between events and it has all worked. Trading for Kyle Yates, picking up Cierra, opting for the upside. The Ranchers got punched in the mouth and could not get off the canvas this match. The Ranchers were already feeling the heat coming in as they switched sides with DJ Young on the right for the men’s match. Some close calls and 21-19 did not go the way of the Ranchers. DJ and James won 1 match together this tournament.

It set up for the Hard Eights throwing out Cierra and Kyle against the number 1 mixed team for the Ranchers, DJ and Anna. The DUPR 73% chance win probability for the Ranchers led the Hard Eights to play completely free and easy pickleball. Cierra was lights out and outplayed Anna forehand to forehand, picking good spots to attack, and Anna continues to struggle a bit in mixed on the right. DJ and Anna also switched sides late in the match, went on a run but an ill-timed DJ lob was ended up shutting the door on that game.

The savvy, underdog David type strategy from the Hard Eights paid off because it put the Ranchers in a spot they hadn’t been before. Facing elimination as the heavy favorites, Ignatowich pressed the entite match and he and Jackie could not get anything going as the Hard Eights never looked back from an 11-2 start. The energy was low from the get go and the quick start did not help. 21-6 beatdown from Jorja and Andrei.

The Hard Eights are off to the finals tonight on CBS Sports Network at 7:30pm EST where they should have another opportunity to play loose in the underdog role. Can they bring the same mentality to the bright lights of the finals?

12:11 pm EST –BLQK are off to their third straight final. Parris Todd is the cheat code for this team getting her so late in the draft and her becoming a number 1 female. She is still undefeated and when the men are able to hold up with wins, this team is unstoppable. Fed and Dekel almost took one off Zane and Rafa in a truly epic match that ended 22-20. Otherwise, it wasn’t that close despite Dekel and Regina starting out up big in their mixed match. It’s so hard for Dekel to stay as hot as he was yesterday when it’s Parris as the other female versus Lee Whitwell.

Saturday, October 14th – Group Play and Quarter-Finals

8:10 pm EST – The Hard Eights looked like they might be down and out versus the Florida Smashafter the Smash were up 2 games to 1 over the Hard Eights and had JW and Lacy up 20-16 on Jorja and Andrei. Somehow, mainly behind Jorja catching fire and one very fortuitous JW speed up that caught Jorja’s hand for a winner, allowed the Hard Eights to push it to a dreambreaker.

In the dreambreaker, the Hard Eights elected to have Cierra go against JW, and I still don’t know if I agree with that strategy as JW went 11-1 against Cierra, but it worked out mainly because Kyle Yates dominated Travis Rettenmaier in their match up, including winning the match point. Travis, who challenged us to a two versus one match yesterday, certainly did little to dissuade me from thinking that would be an easy win for us, with his performance today. The OG Goat has a little more juice than Adam Stone these days.

The Hard Eights will face the Ranchers in the semi final tomorrow.

3:05 pm EST – Team Clean takes the first quarter final match, as Dekel Bar turned it on and was dominant in his mixed match and the dreambreaker. Clean seemed to pick up their energy as the match went on and was somehow able to match the energy that the Mad Drops bring, which was impressive. When Dekel brings that level of energy, he is simply put, a very scary player to face.

Team Clean, will take on BLQK in the semi finals tomorrow.

3:22 pm EST – What a close Dreambreaker. The 5s appeared to have a slight female advantage, but overall they weren’t the better team on paper. Jorja Johnson won the last two rallies against Padigemaite to win the Dreambreaker after Daescu took 3 of 4 against Nunnery. Thank goodness for the line cameras after Yates made a bad call that was overturned. There is no controversy for this win. Kyle Yates has sure worked on his backhand speed ups with the 2-hander, and it is working with Cierra who is holding her line and letting Kyle create the offence. Cierra 5-1 for the Hard Eights has alleviated any concerns around her pick up. On the other hand, the 5s don’t make the elimination round for the first time. Their men went 0-3 in the event and Newell was 1-5 overall. They almost got back but the changes did not work for them.

ATX got their first win, losing only their men’s match to Dekel and Staksrud along the way. It did not matter for them as they just don’t have the team to win. Clean is a concern as we go to the playoffs. We see their women didn’t get a single mixed win, and Dekel/Regina are probably the weakest number 1 mixed team. Their men are 3-0 so far though together.

1:23 pm EST – It was a win and they’re in for the Mad Drops against the defending champs, and they get it done. The Ranchers men are now 1-2 on the weekend as they lost to the Mad Drops men, who are 3-0 on the weekend. Lee Whitwell and AJ Koller needed to win their mixed match to push it to a Dreambreaker, which is what they did. Koller has gotten results with Whitwell in 2021 and they have been solid so far this tournament. The Dreambreaker turning point was Arnold pulling off 4 straight points against Ignatowcih at 10-10, and that propelled them to the win as Whitwell got 3 of 4 against Jackie Kawamoto. People want to talk about Whitwell’s energy but Mary Brascia’s pure joy is completely infectious. A lot of fun to watch all the energy in this matchup. 

That 20-11 lead for Barr/Lange is going to haunt them for a while probably. They actually pulled out this Dreambreaker but didn’t get the help they needed from the Ranchers to go through to the elimination. The Bus’ women went 3-0 on the weekend, but it was a low energy match for the Bus overall after yesterday. Not that it matters now but the Bus’ men looked tight in their match, and Lange/Stratman had opportunities to win in their mixed match. Barr went 5-1 on the weekend overall and won with Burrows after the switch in mixed partnerships. For the Chimeras, they were just stuck in a bad group. They were inches away from being 2-1 and Tardio played really well this weekend. It seems like a 3-horse race between the Ranchers, BLQK and the Mad Drops. 

10:50 am EST – No matches of real consequence this morning. BLQK secure a bye with a 3-1 win over the Smash. After winning their first two matches, Irina/Rafa lost to JW/Lacy and, sheesh, can Schneemann counter some of those balls. It wasn’t enough for the Smash with Rettenmaier and Esquivel losing. Sometimes things can go on Esquivel between the ears and we’ll see how it goes for her in the quarters. She was practicing forehand dinks when they called a timeout. Todd/Zane had been down 14-11 in that match but BLQK turned it around.

The Jackrabbits beat the Lions pretty easily. The first 3 matchups weren’t that close, with the men’s being the tightest. Solid enough showing for Hunter Johnson in his first MLP, getting 4 wins on the weekend. Adam Stone sure looked slow playing singles yesterday against Rettenmaier, but he had not a bad weekend himself. The question for next year’s draft is where does a pure high end right sided female in Vivienne David fit into things?

Friday, October 13th – Group Play

11:25 pm EST – It’s tough to keep track of things so we thought we would recap the standings. Group A: BLQK and Smash are 2-0 with the Jackrabbits and Lions both at 0-2. The BLQK vs. Smash match tomorrow is for seeding and a potential bye.

Group B: Ranchers are 2-0, Chimeras and Mad Drops are 1-1, and the Bus are 0-2. If the Bus beat the Chimeras and the Ranchers beat the Mad Drops, there will be a 3-way tie resolved with net game wins. The Mad Drops are -1 with the Bus and Chimeras at -2 right now.

Group C: Team Clean are 2-0, Hard Eights and 5s are 1-1 and ATX are 0-2. So the Hard Eights and 5s play in a loser leaves town match.

8:18 pm EST – What a day for Team Clean. We have not been super high on them but their women are playing well, and Federico Staksrud has shown to be an upgrade. Franco/Remynse get a big upset win over Jardim/Padigemiate, which propels them to their win. Dekel/Staksrud beat Nunnery/Newell after a bunch of side outs at 20-18. Continue to be impressed with Staksrud’s hands on that right side of the court. And Dekel getting a mixed win with Regina over Simone/Nunnery is a match you could see going either way, but the type of match Dekel has not been getting throughout MLP with Regina as his partner. A 2-0 for Team Clean and a guaranteed spot in the elimination? Pretty exciting for them.

The Hard Eights put themselves in a win and they’re in along with the 5s tomorrow. Both teams are 1-1 after the Hard Eights beat ATX 3-1. Pablo Tellez has not found that heater that he had in the first go at MLP this year in Austin. Tellez loses with Frazier and Ansboury in his two matchups against the Hard Eights. Cierra Gaytan-Leach has gone 3-1 today with a really close loss in mixed being her only loss. She has held up well and that puts the Hard Eights in a position to win with the rest of the team they have.

6:44 pm EST – Big comeback win for the Ranchers. After losing both their women’s and men’s matches, with Anna and Jackie losing for the first time, the Bus were not able to come away with a mixed win. When you’re the Bus and you don’t build a team for the Dreambreaker, it leaves no margin for error in the 4 matches, and they have lost 2 Dreambreakers today. You have to win 3 and they weren’t able to do that today. We have had disagreements with people about team building in these situations and our viewpoint of placing less importance on that aspect of it. It’s something we continue to re-evaluate and may be changing our minds on, at least to more of a degree than we did before. Although, Barr and Lange were up 20-11 and Barr had an overhead at match point that she missed so you get that win and suddenly you have beat the reigning champs, with all 4 teams at 1-1 heading into tomorrow. Maybe you’re not having that conversation the same way about Dreambreakers. Now, it is not over for the Bus because the Chimeras beat the Mad Drops and the Ranchers win combined with a Bus win will put all 3 teams at 1-2 with tiebreakers coming into play.

Speaking of the Mad Drops, they lose to the Chimeras in a bit of a surprise the way it went. It was almost 4-0 though as Tardio/De La Rosa once again were up and they were not able to close it out. The rest of the matches went the Chimeras way, with the mixed matches surprisingly going very handily. One question we have is whether Julian Arnold’s mixed prowess is more theoretical than actual at this point in his career. Outside of the performance with Jessie Irvine in North Carolina, Julian’s results in mixed are very sporadic and that has continued today. The Chimeras were not going to be a free win for anyone and they have proven that, and possibly more as their men’s team is 0-2 with two very close matches that they have lost. 

5:00 pm EST – The BLQK boys have not had the best start to the tournament, going 0-2 and losing to the Lions men who are both strong together in a tight one. Etta Wright’s name keeps coming up as one to watch overall as she continues to improve but her inexperience showed in the mixed match against Parris Todd and Zane Navratil. Up 19-14, Todd and Navratil went on a 6-0 run on their serve to take it to 20-19, and eventually pulled out the win. It’s kind of wild that we’re giving Parris Todd the more experienced label with such high stakes, but that’s the reality of the matter. McMillan/Wilson lost 21-14 to Irina/Rafa but the Lions overall played well as a team in this match as their women came close to knocking off Irina and Paris, but it wasn’t quite enough at the end of the day. 

The Smash’s females have come through together so far, going 2-0 in their first two matches. Schneemann was a high upside, low floor kind of pick up. Her style lends itself to getting hot and cold, and it was a real question how she would perform under the bright lights of being on full-time roster player rather than an alternate. Winning over Maggie Brascia and Vivienne David is a really good win, but not getting either mixed wins is tough. Rettenmaier continues to struggle in mixed as both teams lost handily to the Jackrabbits. It was a real tight Dreambreaker too, 24-22, with the Smash barely coming out on top. Some fun matches so far though. JW needs to win his mixed match, is what it comes down to.  

3:06 pm EST – Another Dreambreaker at MLP. It took a very close match from Team Clean with Maggie Remynse and Federico Staksrud barely pulling it out against Yates/Gaytan-Leach, but that propelled Team Clean to a huge win. Team Clean lost their women’s match and won their men’s match, which is one they are going to have an advantage in with Dekel and Fed. Watching Federico play Matt and Riley from the PPA Vegas, the most impressive thing in that match were Staksrud’s hands and how they held up head on with Riley Newman. He looked very good in his mixed match as well and has. Beyond the two #2 women who lack firepower issue, Team Clean are not built for a Dreambreaker with their women. However, they came back from an 11-6 deficit with an 11-0 run with Federico getting his last 3 against Daescu, Dekel and Maggie going 4 in a row over Yates and Jorja. 

Notably, a couple of very close calls in the Dreambreaker that went to video challenge. MLP doing well with having cameras actually on the lines rather than whatever random camera angles the broadcast has. That’s a big plus and shows they are working out some of the kinks, at least.

Dylan Frazier finally got a win with Pablo Tellez in their 4th try together, getting a tight one over Nunnery/Newell. It didn’t make sense that Frazier and Tellez wouldn’t win any matches in Newport so it’s not surprising they start off with a win in Columbus. However, it was not enough for ATX as Frazier continues to struggle to get wins with Jade Kawamoto. They lose to Nunnery/Jardim, which has to feel good for that pair as they did not have the best time in Newport. Not surprisingly, Padegimaite was able to pull out a win with Newell over Tellez/Ansboury. Lina is most comfortable on the left and that’s a good start for the 5s.

12:55 pm EST – The Ranchers roll through as expected against the Chimeras. The men’s match was tight as Tardio/De La Rosa had Young/Ignatowich on the ropes, but a couple of bad decisions when the Chimeras were up late by both Tardio and De La Rosa led to a loss, 21-19. It was also just clear in their women’s match, as much as Fudge is improving, that she was the clear weak link as to be expected. It’s going to be very tough for her in this uber competitive group.

The Bus and Mad Drops played some tight matchups and we got a Dreambreaker . The Bus’ women won 21-19 while the men loss 22-20. The men’s match was expected to be very tight and after Lange/Burrows got out to a solid lead, Arnold/Koller were able to close the gap. There were opportunities on both sides when the teams got to 20 without any points. Interesting to see Burrows on the right side with Lange on his preferred left. Burrows looked pretty solid over there in a spot we don’t see him in much.  It’s tough for the Bus if they don’t win both their gender matchups. They actually got the mixed matchup that we wouldn’t have expected to get with Lange/Barr over Arnold/Brascia but Stratman/Burrows lost handily 21-15.

The Bus aren’t built for a Dreambreaker. Stratman and Burrows are solid, but Lange and Barr are below average for their genders in singles. It cost them here as they are built to win 3-1. Lange had a rough go with Arnold in particular, other than his 3rd run at him. They made a run at the end but they were down big that left them zero room for error so they end up losing 21-16.

10:20 am EST – Major League Pickleball is back! We had a couple of matchups with fairly heavy favorites and the favorites held their own. BLQK took down the Jackrabbits 3-1, with the only surprise being Stone/Hunter Johnson taking down Navratil/Hewett 21-19. The men’s spot is the “weak” point for BLQK even though Hewett has played better than we expected through the first two MLP events. It’s clear that is the vulnerable spot as they rolled through in their other 3 matches, which really weren’t all that close anywhere. The Jackrabbits need Hunter and Vivienne to win some mixed matches if they want a chance. 

Florida Smash rolled through the Lions as the Lions look like they could be in for another rough couple of days. It wasn’t really competitive other than the final match between the 2nd mixed teams that didn’t matter. Whoever Rettenmaier plays mixed with is the weakest point of this team and it looks like he’ll be with Esquivel to start their tournament at least. They won 21-19 over Wright and Taylor. 

2:45 am EST – Out of the early first 4 matchups, the Bus playing the Mad Drops should be a doozy at 11 am EST. The two teams with the biggest changes with what could be their most important group stage match

25 thoughts on “Major League Pickleball (MLP) Columbus – Live Random Thoughts

  • October 14, 2022 at 5:10 am

    like the play but the team names area terrible

  • October 14, 2022 at 5:44 pm

    Some of those team names gives the owner’s company “free” advertising.

    Ranchers v The Bus:
    Your analysis of the strong team of Barr and Stratman proved they could win even against what should have been the stronger team of Bright and Jackie Kawamoto. The more surprising win was Lange/Burrows over Young/Ignatowich. Burrows made a lot of errors that game, even hitting an out ball, but Lange was strong enough to pull them to the win. The errors caught up to Burrows in Mixed with the loss there with Stratman v Young/Bright. It looked like The Bus had the win in the palm of their hands in the next Mixed Lange/Barr v Ignatowich/Kawamoto. But the aggression of Barr to seal the deal gave too many opportunities to Ignatowich/Kawamoto to come from behind to force the dreambreaker.

    Gotta love the surprise wins.

    • October 14, 2022 at 8:40 pm

      The Lange/Burrows win was not surprising to us. Lange is a men’s beast and should be top 15 in the world for rankings. Burrows/Stratman are 0-2 after going 3-0 last time out. Barr can go that way but that has to hurt for them as she is such a strong #2 mixed pairing that she and Lange should have been 2-0 today

  • October 15, 2022 at 5:30 am

    thanks for the recap but it’s still confusing to me. Seems like if “Ranchers beat the Mad Drops” should be the other way around.

    Will MLP be able to have all the rounds play out in one day in 2023 Sunday format? I’m thinking not enough time. Wonder if group play round 1 used to do the seeding for quarters. I’m sure MLP went through many format options and have it optimized.

    On a different note, I went back and watched Staksrud/Ignatowich match against Newman/Wright (Bad Pickleball YT channel). Surprised to see Wright take the left in game 2 – though it didn’t help them. Then Wright really seemed to get into Ignatowich’s head in game 3 with his huge yell – and they targeted him heavily. First time I’ve seen Ignatowich look flustered. But at least Riley made a special point of acknowledging Ignatowich at the paddle tap so no hard feelings – just competition. Hopefully the future interview of Ignatowich and possibly Wright [separate] on It Feels Right will ask some questions about it.

    • October 15, 2022 at 7:57 am

      No Ranchers have to win so they are 3-0 and all other teams are 1-2 in the group

      2023 they are only doing 3 matches each event and in thr 6th event there’s an 8 team elimination only. Totally different format

      Ignatowich is a guy who wouldn’t be upset about the yelling. He says he wants that

  • October 15, 2022 at 10:15 am

    With just a few exceptions, the level of play is hard to watch 😬. They need to get the top pros into these things…

    • October 15, 2022 at 12:28 pm

      Fair enough. We disagree but we can understand the sentiment

    • October 15, 2022 at 1:00 pm

      Or you can just tune into the PPA where just about every weekend is like watching Groundhog Day. MLP is simply more fun!

    • October 15, 2022 at 1:12 pm

      Try watching what the PPA is showing this weekend. Top pros playing 4.5/5.0s…that is hard to watch. Well maybe not hard to watch but definitely not entertaining. Plus the quality of the PPA live stream just isn’t great. The MLP broadcast has been great: good commentary, good camera angles, and finally some cameras on the lines for accurate line call challenges. Yet the PPA live stream has double the viewers the MLP live stream has, I just don’t get it!

      After reading your post about MLP changing their format next year I can understand the reasoning and benefit behind the decision. But man, this current format is soooo good. That match between the Ranches and Mad Drops was one of the most entertaining matches I’ve seen all year. Anyone who doubts that Pickleball is a spectator sports should watch that match.

      • October 15, 2022 at 8:04 pm

        The current format is amazing. We are sad to see it go. It’s the best and will not be the same next year

      • October 16, 2022 at 4:55 pm

        Yesterday was the most entertaining day of pickleball broadcast ever, period. Even the stream was done extremely well. Turns out pickleball IS tv friendly.

        To me, MLP is kinda like march madness, whereas PPA is NBA. Surprised how refreshing it was not having some of the big dogs playing. Didn’t miss them at all.

        Ya, expanding will be tricky for strong female players, but it will allow for more opportunities for underdog teams to emerge.

  • October 15, 2022 at 1:27 pm

    MLP never disappoints, I love it so much! But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there just aren’t enough high end pro women. If MLP can’t get the PPA’s women to enter the draft next year, there is just no way they can fill 16 teams. I don’t want to name names, but there were a handful of woman who really weren’t at the level you would expect to see in a major league sport. To me the level of the second female player really sticks out as I have been watching and I think it is a major concern for the success of MLP moving forward.

    • October 15, 2022 at 1:58 pm

      I agree with you that the live stream and the atmosphere of MLP is great! But aren’t you agreeing with me about player quality in MLP in your comment below? I think we are saying the same thing.

      • October 15, 2022 at 2:15 pm

        (meant to reply to your comment at 1:12, not this one)

      • October 15, 2022 at 3:31 pm

        I agree that some of the level of play fell short of what you would expect for MLP. I still enjoyed watching though and find that the rally scoring and the team format still make it fun to watch. I worry though that next year with the league moving to 16 teams, requiring 32 women, the skill disparity between the high and low end players will be too great.

    • October 15, 2022 at 8:05 pm

      That’s the concern we had with 16 teams for sure. We see why they are doing it now but the product will suffer if they can’t get the PPA women

  • October 16, 2022 at 3:51 am

    I watched the end of the PPA tournament… The men’s final consisted of only a game to 15. For some reason Tyson was out so they had a Spencer Smith sub in for him. Very unprofessional look in my opinion.
    Loving the MLP. Wishing they can get more viewers though. The numbers are still too low.

    • October 16, 2022 at 5:53 am

      I agree on both counts. I do believe the MLP viewing numbers will increase substantially next year due to the media hype train generated from the new high profile owners (Labron/Brady).

  • October 16, 2022 at 7:31 am

    Poor Travis, he played really well in doubles all weekend. I don’t actually know the rules for pick order in singles. I’d say Florida Smash messed that up for than anything, Kyle Yates was gonna murder any of their non-JW players.

    Lee Whitwell vs Dekel is just a super bad matchup. I believe I’ve seen it in at least two other tournaments, Dekel gets to go nuts and play his drive drop game against her. He’s actually advantaged on serve. Normally he plays with slimmer margins and hits more than a few into the net against any other player that can hit a reasonable 4th shot volley. This wasn’t the only factor obviously, but it sure did lend to Dekel’s confidence

  • October 16, 2022 at 12:59 pm

    I was rooting for Hard 8’s all the way. In yesterday’s qrtr against Florida Smash, I thought they played extremely well. It was incredible how Andrei and Jorja were behind almost the entire final MXD against JW and Lacy. Yet they kept fighting, kept focused, kept their energy high and forced the dreambreaker. Then the dreambreaker was great fun with its insane energy. Early in today’s semi’s, the Ranchers did some things that made me root even more for the Hard 8’s.

    The WD game almost was a win for the Hard 8’s. I did think Jorja could have poached some of Gaytan-Leach’s backhand shots if allowed and given room. Took 4 games but they got the win anyway.

    Hard 8’s just were more zoned-in, more focused, more fighting spirit, more teammanship, more supportive, and great support from their owner team – out in numbers. It is what I like best about the MLP format.

    Hard 8’s wasn’t one of the teams deemed most likely to get to this point and that is another reason the team dynamics can make such a difference with MLP. Throw out DUPR, NML, etc. and throw in how the sum of the soft skills can equal a big W. Unfortunately for Hard 8’s, BLQK also has all of that to bring to the finals.

    Kudos to team owner of the Ranchers. He congratulated the members of Hard 8’s and looked very genuine about it.

    • October 16, 2022 at 1:47 pm

      Yeah absolutely that’s what is so fun about MLP. We were skeptical of the moves made but they were upside moves. Cincola was the glaring issue that we saw previously but Cierra has allowed them to stay strong in women’s. Their ownership group clearly cares as they flew Cierra out to florida to practice as well

      Tim Klitch didn’t seem too distraught by the loss. Like his whole attitude around the team and event

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