It was announced that Jay Devilliers is still stuck in France so he will not be competing at the first PPA Grand Slam of the year. Not ideal for Jay. That puts Jessie Irvine with Kyle Yates and Tyson McGuffin back with Tyler Loong. Again, no Ben or JW in singles. Lots of action to come all weekend.
Championship Sunday, May 22nd
6:15 pm EST – Anna Leigh over Catherine, which is not surprising. The match of the day may have been Staksrud and Hewett. Federico has gotten the better of Rafa recently and it looked like it would be done in straights. But Rafa gets major credit for fighting hard to win games 3 and 4 in very tight fashion before Staksrud pulled out a close game 5. A very weird PPA singles draw ends with the guy who has been the most consistent riser on tour with a gold.
2:30 pm EST – Matt and Riley with a huge win in 5 over Ben and Collin. It was ultra impressive that they won game 5 after blowing a 9-0 lead in game 4 to close it out. Tough weekend for Ben
12:42 pm EST – Callie and Lucy get a gold. 5 gamer that had a bit of a game 5 let down but really tight throughout. Early in game 2, Lucy and Callie switched to have Lucy on the left and kept that alignment for most of the match. It just seems like these few teams are all pretty close and there won’t be any true domination. But as we know, things can change.
10:20 am EST – Catherine and Riley are at a different level than Matt and Lucy right now. Really, this tournament they played at a higher level than anyone out there with their win over Anna Leigh and Ben.
Saturday, May 21st – Doubles
9:50 pm EST – Jessie Irvine is lucky that Anna Bright burst onto the scene. Otherwise, she would have been left in a terrible spot this year. Instead, they also look to be a legitimate contender together, which adds one team to the female mix. They get their first bronze together in Atlanta.
7:36 pm EST – The Waters quite easily over Irina and Lauren, and they have to be favored going into Championship Sunday with Lucy/Callie in this brief gold drought. On the back side, Anna/Jessie took down Lea/Catherine, which has to feel good for Jessie. While Sheehan-Dizon/Jones beat Irina/Lauren to go to bronze. We have used this space to say maybe these ladies shouldn’t be PPA exclusive but that’s two good tourneys in a row for the pair, who are definitely improving.
JW and Dekel also quite easily, but not quite as easily, over Kyle and Pat. Now, it wasn’t a Championship Sunday but it’s still an improved performance for Dekel/JW. Dekel on the left may pose its problems but this is a partnership has a chance to do damage unlike most
6:24 pm EST – Big win for Callie and Lucy in a third game that could have gone either way. It does look like there are at least 3 legitimate contenders on a weekly basis right now with Catherine/Lea. The Lea switch has been better than a push but with everyone in the mix golds will be tough to come by. Irvine/Bright will face them in the losers bracket for a showdown of former partners.
4:32 pm EST – It is the expected final but JW/Dekel tried to give the Johns a run. The first half of the match there were super high level rallies but Dekel/JW could not maintain that level. Dekel was also stacked on the left and it does seem him taking the majority of the court limits JW. The only advantage is Ben knows he can’t attack JW but overall it seems to play in the Johns’ favour.
Yates with another strong day. All the way into the bronze match this time without a strong left sided player, though Pat does have weapons. Can’t ignore the Yates 2022 comeback year. They’ll play the winner of Hayden/Wyatt vs. JW/Dekel as the kids also continue their rising stock of a season in 2022.
The women’s semis go with the seeding with the only close match being Irina/Lauren getting the better of Bright/Irvine in 3. 11-9 in the third and not surprising that could have gone either way. Both Irina and Lauren are having very solid 2022s, especially Stratman with her partnership flux. We’ll get to see Lucy/Callie vs. Lea/Catherine again, and that should be a doozie. Lucy/Callie must be itching for a big win. It’s now been a while.
1:56 pm EST – We get a Tyson withdrawal as that illness is still affecting him, which allows Koller/Wilson to get to the semi finals with a free pass. Can they give Newman/Koller any trouble? Same goes for JW/Dekel. We may be too quick to judge brand new partnerships so let’s see how this works out against the Johns. The women are just getting going so nothing to report there.
12:07 pm EST – This has been mostly a chalk day on the men’s side with the women not getting going until 1pm. McGuffin has had his usual battles in the early rounds, getting taken to 3 games by Staksrud/Lladro and Rafa Hewett/Gabe Tardio, but him and Loong are into the quarter-finals where they will play Koller/Wilson. Scarpa/Dow continue to make teams fight as Koller/Wilson battled in 3 against them too.
The best match so far today was Smith/Dawson playing Cassidy/Frazier. A 3-game battle that went the way of the very steady Smith/Dawson ended on a weird foot fault call that seemed like it shouldn’t have been called a foot fault when Cassidy dragged his front foot off the line going back for an overhead – tough call in real time to make truly though. JW/Dekel will play Kyle/Patrick Smith in the last quarter-final and we’ll start to see whether JW/Dekel’s chemistry is better than in St. Louis.
Friday, May 20th – Mixed
6:08 pm EST – A pretty good day for Stratman/Frazier where they fall short of a podium. JW/Simone, on the other hand, pull out a very strong day through the backdraw. This was definitely a podium team and, even though she’s not at the top anymore, she’s still an upper echelon player when she’s paired with an elite mixed player.
4:37 pm EST – Man, Ben and Anna Leigh lose in 2 to Parenteau/Newman, the other team that did take them to 3 games earlier this year but it was not close in games 2 and 3 when they did. They won 12-10 in the first and then just took off after they were down early in game 2. We’ll need to watch this one back closer as I only caught part of the 2nd game. Newman looked like he was playing out of his mind and he was jacked up today. You do wonder how Ben was doing coming straight off his graduation ceremony yesterday but we do sometimes want to make excuses for Ben too quickly when he loses. The other aspect is the time off Anna Leigh had and whether she is just a bit off her game because of that. Parenteau/Newman not too long ago were having a disappointing 2022 and look how it has all changed, They will be heavily favored going into Sunday.
Benny Backdraw does not like being in the backdraw either. Ben and Anna Leigh lose 15-5 to Simone/JW, and that sure looks like a mail it in performance from Ben. Simone/JW will face the winner of Stratman/Frazier vs. David/Bar – Dekel is doing better in mixed these days as they get that 16-14 win over Smith/Koller.
2:41 pm EST – So that was fast. Frazier/Stratman go down 11-2, 11-2 to Matt and Lucy. They definitely got the benefit of a generous draw without Jay/Jessie or Parenteau/Newman on their side, but they made it work today. Another Championship Sunday for them and this will allow them to keep that stranglehold of the #1 seed with the way PPA standings points operate.
I should have also noted it’s not very often in these draws that you play the same team twice. Of course, the Johnson siblings played each other twice today and JW/Simone got the best of Jorja/Gabe tardio both times.
2:20 pm EST – Ben and Anna Leigh get by Callie/AJ who challenged them to 3 games for the second time this year. Callie/AJ are the only team that has really pushed this team at all but it did seem like there was an unfocused Ben Johns making a lot of errors in the game 1 that they lost. They will play Parenteau/Newman in the semis and that should be a much more focused Ben/Anna Leigh. In the other semi-final, we’ll see Matt/Lucy playing Stratman/Frazier.
Lucy/Matt beat JW/Simone, demonstrating where Simone’s game is at at this point most likely (although neither of us watched the match). For Stratman/Frazier, this is a team that truly has a shot to get to a Championship Sunday with Matt/Lucy being vulnerable. Stratman has shown she is super formidable in the mixed game and Frazier is a great partner for her. Neither of us will be surprised if they are the team that finds its way to Sunday.
On the losers side, a notable outcome is Vivienne/Dekel winning 15-6 over Bright/Loong. Bright has some ways to go to find mixed results in doubles particularly.
10:41 am EST – Something is clearly wrong with Tyson as he withdrew today. Hope he’s all good soon. Sucks to not be able to play the Grand Slam. Also, Jardim/JW against Matt/Lucy in the quarters. Jardim/JW did have a tight one with Bright/Loong but the better team does prevail.
10:14 am EST – Brutal draw for the Johnson siblings having to play each other round 1. What are the odds of that happening eh? Jansen and Collin Johns are still not getting it done together. Most of those early matches should be walkthroughs but they had to play 3 games against Devidze and Forster, including 11-6 in game 3.
1:25 am EST – It’ll be interesting if Tyson plays today. They said it was an illness but it was odd for him to pull out of a singles draw with no other top players. Simone/JW get the fortune of avoiding Ben’s side of the draw whereas Catherine/Riley as the 3 seed get the not so good fortune of being on that half of the draw. This is why I’ll continue not to love single elimination with seeding being so important. Who knows how Matt/Lucy do but for them to still have #1 seed is just wrong. Also, Jeff Warnick back in a pro draw this weekend!
Thursday, May 19th – Singles
8:47 pm EST – Lea over Callie again. Ho hum. Ignatowich over Kusmider in easy straights. Ignatowich is here to stay as a singles staple. Not much more to say.
6:43 pm EST – So Rafa Hewett is off to Championship Sunday. This will be Rafa’s best result in his career. It was 12-10 in the third and we didn’t get there without some controversy. At 8-9 on Cincola’s serve, Cincola rolled a ball cross court that appeared to catch the line on the video that Rafa called out. The far side ref overturned the call but after Rafa got a little upset, at one point looking up and asking for Connor (presumably Connor Pardoe), the near side ref overturned to the far side refs overturned call. Get all that? Cincola still went up 10-9 and had two match points he wasn’t able to capitalize on, but he clearly was still bothered by the call after the fact. Anyway, huge win for Rafa and that has to be gut wrenching for Cincola, but such is the nature of sports. Kusmider will play Cincola to go to bronze and it’ll be tough for Cincola to get mentally revved up for that one along with the fatigue issue. Ignatowich is waiting in the bronze so a big day for him too.
Callie Smith will play Lea Jansen for bronze yet again so the women’s side did not see any upset of the current balance, but that should come at some point. Callie Smith has had a very strong day. Does she have an upset in her?
5:42 pm EST – Callie Smith was very close to her a singles Championship Sunday in a full field but she comes up just short against Parenteau, 11-7 in game 3. Callie seems to be on a mission today to show she should not be forgotten in this mix of new singles players coming forward. We’ll see how she does in the back draw after a tough, grind of a loss. Although Anna Leigh has been pushed by a couple of players, she seems to have no problem with Jansen. There’s something about this matchup that Anna Leigh finds very comfortable.
Federico Staksrud is into Championship Sunday. CRBN paddles be damned! His rise has been meteoric this year as he takes down the newcomer James Ignatowich in two games. Staksrud will face either Cincola or Rafa Hewett. If Cincola gets to Championship Sunday, he gets to say no spin serve be damned! However, Rafa Hewett has played Cincola very tight always and this is a huge opportunity for him. He’s up 10-4 in the first as I write this. Rafa has all the talent in the world but putting it together for an entire day is his enemy.
Jack Foster has found his way one match from the bronze. He got the classic Tyler Loong withdrawal and then was able to beat Gabriel Tardio. He continues to be a guy in the mix despite his lack of podiums in 2022 and will face James Ignatowich to go to bronze. No podium for Julian Arnold as he loses a tight one to Jake Kusmider. There’s a lot of singles guys on the rise and in the mix of things so it’s not surprising to see a very funky looking podium when none of the top 4 singles players in the world, plus Jay, are at this event.
2:50 pm EST – Anna Bright gave Anna Leigh Waters a run for her money but fell short in 3 games. Bright continues to improve and this is the second time in recent tournaments Anna Leigh has been pushed by players outside of the “top” seeds. She was pushed by Parris Todd and now Anna Bright. The top 4 seeds are all in the semi-finals with Jansen, Parenteau and Callie Smith all getting through. Most notably, Smith won 11-4, 11-9 over Parris Todd and I continue to believe that Todd needs to do better about getting to the net if she wants to consistently play at the top of the singles game. Parris lost to Megan Fudge 15-8 on the losers side too and watching Fudge play she knows she has to get to the net as much as possible. These things take time in the women’s game though, clearly. Patience.
On the men’s side, there are interesting results coming from a field devoid of 3 of the top players. Federico Staksrud got through Alex Neumann and then Julian Arnold both in 3 games. Staksrud showing the world that it is not his CRBN paddle that was getting it done for him. He’s going to get the winner of James Ignatowich and Dylan Frazier who should both prove to be formidable opponents. On the other half of the draw, Rafa Hewett who is always a threat to be in the mix in singles has found his way to the semi-finals. He hasn’t had any major wins but good wins over Anderson Scarpa and Gabriel Tardio has put him in a spot where he could beat either Tyler Loong or John Cincola.
Ryan Sherry may very well be hurting as he noted his foot has been causing his problems but he had a bad day today losing early to Gabe Tardio. There’s a lot of good players known and not as well known who have had some tough, close losses on the winners side to very good players – Pablo Tellez, Dillon Segur, Austin Tchikatilov. There’s a lot of legitimately good players spending money to try to make a name for themselves in pickleball.
11:17 am EST – Tough for the PPA with their first Grand Slam. No Ben due to graduation. No JW. And now Tyson with the withdrawal. The 3 biggest names in singles not playing. We don’t know what happened to Tyson but that is an odd last minute withdrawal.
10:33 am EST – The draw got switched up without Jay Devilliers in there. It gives Ryan Sherry a much tougher draw. Tyson is going to have to work to get to Championship Sunday no matter how the draw shakes out. He has been so consistent this year but, at the same time, he looks more vulnerable than ever.
Lea Jansen gets the rougher end of the 3/4 coin flip as she will have to find her way through Anna Leigh if she wants to be there Sunday. Bright continues to be on the wrong end of seeding. She has the 9 seed and that puts her right in Anna Leigh’s quarter but she also has to face Stratman before she gets there.