No more MLP until the end of March so we’ll have to settle with pro tour events. There really is a lot to look forward to in terms of new matchups, new partnerships and deeper fields. It’s a new era for professional pickleball and we are just along for the ride. In case you missed our fantasy draft preview, you can check that out for some of our quick thoughts on the field. As a reminder, the PPA has changed its format for the loser’s bracket so that the losers of the semi-final automatically play the bronze match and all the others that drop down after a loss are playing for 5th place at best.
Sunday, February 5th – Championship Sunday
6:52 pm EST – Catherine and Staksrud both found a way to take AL and Ben to 3 games. You wonder if they took their foot off the gas to a degree as especially Ben just came out and didn’t make it look all that difficult.
4:10 pm EST (Waggish) – My take on MD: I wonder if we will get a rivalry in MD for 2023. To have a rivalry, you have to have the other team win sometimes. Ben’s shot selection and shot placement is too good right now. So far, he looks unstoppable. 11-3, 12-10, 11-8.
4:00 pm EST – The Johns win again in 3. They were down game point in the 2nd game but that’s as close as this one got. Once again, it feels like Matt/Riley don’t have enough juice now that the Johns brothers have sorted out dealing with the ultra aggressive style. They are no longer able to pull full pedal to the metal as the Johns have been able to neutralize them and dictate the game with their style of play.
3:42 pm EST – A strong showing from Jansen/Jones overall as they go down in 4 games to Waters/Parenteau. It’s still unclear whether that duo has the firepower to consistently play with the big dogs but this was a very encouraging performance as Allyce will at least hold up to power, which is what makes her such a strong mixed player. Jansen seems to have added quite a bit more that she can do off of her 2-handed backhand, both rolling her dinks and speeding up, which makes her even more dangerous on that left side. They lose 11-3, 9-11, 11-9, 11-7, but you wonder what the 3rd game could have done for them as they were up late in that game. These partnerships take time to sort things out and Jones/Jansen are still figuring out certain balls amongst one another, but a positive sign for them overall in only their 2nd tournament together. As for Waters, she continues to win in mixed with whoever she plays with. A fun match overall.
1:20 pm EST – These Sundays could stay very boring for a little while more. Ben and Anna Leigh get through Kovalova/Wright in 3. Games 2 and 3 were close, but not too much to say about this one. Let’s hope for some more exciting matchups today.
Saturday, February 4th – Doubles
10:15 pm EST – We’ll add some final thoughts for the day. JW/Dylan didn’t have it against Ben/Collin today. It looked like Ben/Collin put a few more balls the way of JW and kept out of that forehand cross-court dink exchange with Dylan. JW was trying to initiate more in game 2 and even had a couple of off the bounce forehand speedups, but he needs to find a way to initiate more with his hands being only matched by Riley Newman in the game of pickleball. We get another Johns vs. Matt/Riley matchup, with JW/Dylan taking bronze with that 11-7, 11-2 win over Loong/Dawson. Those bronzes will be harder to come by this year for Loong/Dawson but they showed they are still in the mix today.
The women’s side was most interesting. We have obviously been high on Bobbi Oshiro’s game but we sure did not see anything like this coming from Oshiro and old school as old school gets, Sarah Ansboury. It appears Ansboury has finally added some kind of a one hand backhand roll at the kitchen, which has been a long time coming for an old school player with nothing on that backhand side. Her movement seemed to be better today from what we saw in game 1 against Jansen/Jones, but then looked slower as the match went on – we wonder if she was tired after some long matches earlier in the day. The perplexing thing from Ansboury/Oshiro was keeping Ansboury on the left and pounding that cross-court backhand exchange with Jansen despite getting tuned up 11-0 in game 2. It felt like Oshiro should be on the left or, at the very least, stop playing so many balls to Jansen – it is unclear to us why this was the strategy. Either way, it was a good run for them and it turns into a very good day for Jansen/Jones, who will get their first Championship Sunday together after the top 2 seeds in their half of the draw get knocked out by Oshiro/Ansboury.
The Anna Leigh/Parenteau thing is interesting too. A very routine win that didn’t necessarily look routine on paper over Bright/David. While Bright/David are a first time pairing and did go on to steamroll in the bronze (0, 1) over Oshiro/Ansboury, we thought we might see more juice from that team. Parenteau has had a good little run the past couple of weeks and it may be shaping up to be a super boring Championship Sunday. Who knows as that is why they play the games, but the men’s final could be the only close match we get all day.
Not a good day for Johnson/Koop at all as they even lost in the 5th place match against Irina/Dizon, 15-6.
9:05 pm EST (Waggish) – Disappointing semi between AL/CP and David/Bright. Clear domination by AL/CP. Game 2 was a little closer. Vivienne’s signature reset from transition zone deserted her in some of the heated battles. If anyone was wondering if it’d be a problem for AL to play with other partners besides Leigh, you have your answer. (3,4)
8:40 pm EST (Waggish) – Wilson-Arnold take 5th 15-8. I wondered at times if Koller tried to take too much court with such a big guy for his partner. A few times they both went for the middle and neither got it. Johnson-Frazier take bronze (7,2) over Loong-Dawson.
Today, the players were not challenging/arguing many line calls. Video review was allowed in the semis. The only time it happened was in the WD when Jansen-Jones challenged a call in game 3. The call stood. They had a rough game 1 then pulled it together. 5-11, 11-0, 11-3.
7:45 pm EST (Waggish) – Wright-Newman defeat Loong-Dawson (5,9). Finally, a match with highlight rallies. See game 2 for highlight rally at 8-8 and 8-9. Game 2 may have been the best Tyler and Callan have ever played against Matt and Riley. They play JW and Dylan for the Bronze. For MD 5th place, we have Wilson-Arnold vs Lange-Koller. Which cousin will be the stronger player? Earlier, Lange-Koller looked like they were meshing better than Wilson-Arnold.
7:00 pm EST (Waggish) – It looked like we might get a surprise upset in game 1 of Parenteau/Waters vs Tereschenko-Dizon. But with 2 coaches ready to advise at time-outs, Catherine and AL executed the game plan. AL got more aggressive. And they pull ahead and then get a blow-out in game 2. You had to feel sorry for the losing team when even the announcers said Irina and Meghan had no coaches to go to during time-outs. (9,1)
Speaking of coaches, I hope JW and Dylan hire someone such as Kyle McKenzie to analyze their games against the Johns. They should have done better this time around but did worse. 11-4, 11-7. JW and Dylan need to spend the next 2 weeks watching their games against the Johns and start making different plays or reading the tells by the Johns. And maybe get a third party opinion. I felt like I was watching somewhat of a rerun of the Masters. It’ll be a long year for them if they don’t do some homework.
5:25 pm EST (Waggish) – Loong-Dawson over Wilson-Arnold 9, 7. When you are facing Dawson, you know the Andiaomo fire won’t be in play often because Dawson plays the dink game as much as possible. They did try putting Wilson on the left but that did’t help much so they didn’t stick with it. Wilson-Arnold made a run in each game threatening a come-back. A few times, I saw Loong getting as low at the net as Dawson which was something new. Wright-Newman make it to their semi after defeating Staksrud-Tellez 8,8.
WD: Oshiro-Ansboury got another strong win over Johnson-Koop 1-11, 11-7, 11-9. They face Jansen-Jones in semi. In the back-draw, Callie and Lucy are out after their defeat from the team of Stratman-Padegimaite 15-12. They’ve never done well in the back-draw.
4:25 pm EST (Waggish) – My own take on the Lange-Koller vs Frazier-Johnson match: During most of game 1, you are thinking how could Frazier-Johnson almost have taken down the Johns team at the Masters 2 weeks ago. JW seemed to have a hard time reading Lange’s shots. They were down 2-8. At 4-9, they seemed to have figured things out by telepathy – no time-outs. They’ll soon get the rematch with the Johns team in semi. Hopefully, they can keep the telepathy going because we know neither of these teams like time-outs.
4:05 pm EST – There is some stuff to talk about on the women’s side. The big upset of the day goes to Bobbi Oshiro and Sarah Ansboury, winning 11-8 in the third over Lucy/Callie. We have been wondering amongst ourselves how long this Lucy/Callie thing can go on for. Their partnership is not improving. They appear to really like each other and they were happy to play with one another at MLP. However, it can’t be easy when the results do not match expectations. Losing to Anboury/Oshiro is not good. Another interesting result in the women’s is Etta Wright/Brooke Bucker going two straight over Regina Franco-Goldberg/Jessie Irvine. It’s not a major surprise but Buckner is getting some decent results this weekend. Etta has more abiltiy to take court and be assertive than Jessie Irvine. Still waiting on that Etta/Jessie partnership.
The men’s stuff is pretty chalky so far. Koller/Lange are playing a tight one against JW/Dylan now but they blew a sizeable lead in game 1. Koller/Lange took down Ignatowich/Navratil 13-11, 11-9. Scott Doerner continues to look legit as he and Rettenmaier took Dawson/Loong to 3 games, 11-5 in the third.
3:05 pm EST (Waggish) – MD QF: Johns vs Devilliers/Young – Johns currently on track to win game 1; Johnson/Frazier vs Lange/Koller – should be next on CC; Wright/Newman vs Staksrud/Tellez; Loong/Dawson vs Wilson/Arnold.
WD: AB/David may face AL/CP in the semis. Lucy/Callie could have QF with Jorja/Koop.
(Waggish) – The main question for today is will we get anyone in Championship Sunday MD other than Matt/Riley and Ben/Collin. For WD, who will face ALW/CP on Sunday: Vivienne and Anna or Lucy and Callie or ?. Update: Vivienne and Anna may get into the semis with ALW/CP.
Friday, February 3rd – Mixed
9:34 pm EST – Just a couple of final thoughts on the day. Newman and Bright is not the same as Newman and AL teaming up to expect immediate dominance. Bright does not have the mixed reps, especially traditional mixed reps, that all of these other top women she is facing have. Look at the top, you have Anna Leigh, Parenteau, Irvine, Kovalova, Callie Smith, Vivienne David, Lindsey Newman and even Jorja Johnson. It takes time and Bright is going to take some of it to get more comfortable with extended dink rallies on the right, and how to decide when to pull the trigger against a male with elite hands. There also isn’t much variety to her cross-court right side dinking as it stands right now. We both think that things will only get better from here but this first quarter or so of the year may really be a feeling out period for Newman/Bright. They still get a bronze over Koller/Irvine. By the way, what is the deal with Koller these days? He generally seems more unengaged and more apt to do really silly things on the court. Odd stuff from the eye test.
Lindsey Newman and James Ignatowich continue to look strong together. They barely lost to Matt/Lucy in 3 before making a good run in the 5th place back draw, ultimately falling to Vivienne David and Thomas Wilson, 15-11. Wilson/David obviously are doing well but it should be noted that new Crbn paddle appears to be a problem. Tyson McGuffin basically said without saying on one of his recent podcasts that the new Crbn is illegal. That’s not the first we have heard of concerns about the Crbn too. While it feels somewhat wrong to note the Crbn specifically when there’s a bunch of shady stuff going on in the sport, it is notable that we’re seeing more pros once again get that Crbn. Gosh it looks like it’s being hit extra hard out there by Wilson.
8:18 pm EST (Waggish) – Bronze goes to Newman/Bright over Koller/Irvine 11-5, 6-11, 11-7. It was nice to see matches streamed past the semi’s.
7:50 pm EST (Waggish) – Newman/Bright vs Wright/Kovalova. I’ve never seen Lucy play so well! All 3 games were so so close. I know Bright pulled the trigger a lot but I thought they could have been more aggressive early in game 3. Though late in game 3 Bright may have decided wrongly to go after Matt instead of remaining steady with dinking with Lucy. Hard to say what opportunity she saw from the stream angles. Eventually, it was who made less errors and it was the Wright/Kovalova team. 10-12, 13-11, 11-9.
David/Wilson win 5th place over Newman/Ignatowich: 15-11.James covers a lot of court but Vivienne was still able to find some gaps in the middle and sidelines.
5:55 pm EST (Waggish) – Kovalova-Wright vs Smith-Devilliers. Game 1 was 1-7-2 when Callie got serve and they get to 8-7 before losing serve! What a run! Jay highlight reel second time they get the serve back at 8-7. Matt dominates in game 2. Game 3 minor highlight at 4-0. Matt and Lucy win 11-7, 3-11, 11-7. Callie and Jay played well together.
Koop-Frazier vs Newman-Ignatowich. Lindsey playing left. James covering a lot of court. An easy win for them 15-2.
Something I noticed in the Ben/AL vs Johnsons match near end of game 1 at 10-8. Don Stanley did a last call over the speakers for Riley Newman. Now maybe I didn’t look at the brackets in time but when I did, Newman/Bright were due to play David/Wilson. That was the next match scheduled for CC. So why last call for Newman when the current match on CC wasn’t even finished with game 1. I thought “last call” was supposed to be only for when the court was available. I have seen PPA play foot-loose with the “first call” to accommodate certain players. Hard on the players not to know what the rules are in any given match. One poor player was left guessing for 10 minutes past the start of his match before an announcement was made.
4:40 pm EST (Waggish) – Navratil/Parenteau vs Koller/Irvine. It looked pretty grim for Koller/Irvine in game 1. They were slow and not working well together. I was thinking no highlights in this match. Game 2, Koller started moving better and covering more court. They scrunch out a win. Game 3, Navratil had more errors and Irvine started being more aggressive. It looked over at game point 10-3. But Navratil/Parenteau make a run at side-out. A minor highlight at 5-10. Koller/Irvine win 1-11, 11-9, 11-6. They face AL/Ben in semi. AL was watching the match with her mother so she should be well-prepared on her strategy. Not that I think she was worried.
Last QF is Kovalova-Wright vs Smith-Devilliers. Kovalova-Wright has had an especially long wait. In the backdraw, we have a surprising result. Newman-Ignatowich win over the Johnsons 15-6. Parenteau/Navratil face Koop-Frazier and looks like that could be streamed on the 2nd feed. The winner there will face Newman-Ignatowich.
3:30 pm EST (Waggish) – Newman/Bright vs Wilson/David: Another highlight point – 8-8 in game 1. Those who were thinking a regular tournament would be boring after MLP should be pleasantly surprised. All the players seem to be having fun too which is sometimes rare in PPA. See 5-4 in game 2! Your screen is not frozen. Hilarious! Newman/Bright into semi’s 11-9, 11-5.
2:49 pm EST (Waggish) – Ben/AL vs Johnsons: Highlight point at 7-9 in game 2! The Johnsons were almost flawless in game 2 until at game point 10-7. Then Ben dominated the middle and forced some pop-ups from the Johnsons. Ben/AL win 11-8, 13-11. Well done by the Johnsons – made Ben/AL fight hard.
2:15 pm EST (Waggish) – Kovalova-Wright win over Newman-Ignatowich 11-3,9-11,11-8.Close game 1 in Ben/AL vs Johnsons on CC. Very high level play by all players. Bright-Newman vs David-Wilson next on CC!
1:21 pm EST – A couple of notable early results in these stacked mixed fields. Koop/Frazier lose to Franco-Goldberg/Alshon 12-10 and 12-10. Alshon did not look like an unstoppable force in mixed in Challenger, but he has some elite shot making on his forehand and can cover a bunch of court. A very good win for them as Regina has the ability to be super steady with Alshon. Steve Deakin and Brooke Buckner with a good win too, getting past Jones/Smith, 12-10 and 11-9. These are matches that can go either way but Jones has shown high end mixed capability so to get that win over Jones/Smith is nothing to scoff at. We’ll get some interesting matchups coming up soon here.
11:15 am EST (Waggish) – Still waiting for brackets after the qualifier completes. Keep an eye on the run Riley and Anna Bright make. Another strong team should be Vivienne David and Thomas Wilson. It’s going to be critical which one of these, if either, have to face AL and Ben in QF or semi. Wouldn’t it be a great change of pace if both make it to Championship Sunday!
Thursday, February 2nd – Singles
9:52 pm EST – Lea takes bronze 11-8 in the third over Irina. Tight one.
8:10 pm EST – All chalk on the women’s side as Anna Leigh will play Catherine for gold. Brooke Buckner wins the inaugural 5th place bracket for the women. Good showing from her.
Ben looked in trouble against Julian before turning it into overdrive about halfway through the 2nd game against Arnold to take it in 3. He continues to be a beast in singles. Anderson Scarpa takes 5th place for the men beating Rafa Hewett and that’s a big day for him. Julian Arnold takes bronze 4 and 5 over the not so bronze stallion Jay.
5:38 pm EST – Federico Staksrud is into another Championship Sunday. An ideal draw for Staksrud where Devilliers gave him a run for his money but Stak was too much. He’ll face the winner of Arnold and Ben Johns. That means with this new format it is Jay Devilliers is automatically the bronze. There is a small amount of prize money available to the 5th place winner in this new format. Rafa Hewett is now a back draw monster it appears and will be playing for that coveted 5th place prize. He’ll face the winner of Troy Akin and Anderson Scarpa. Akin lost to JW earlier in the day and then beat what had to be a disinterested JW. Scarpa is having a fine day as he beat Tellez (17-15) and then Alshon (15-10). Wondering if Alshon is vulnerable on his backhand side in singles as he runs around to that forehand a lot and doesn’t appear to do a lot of the bounce at this stage on his backhand unlike a lot of the other new tennis players coming into the game – Alshon does not use a 2-hander naturally in pickleball.
In women’s, the top 4 seeds are in the semis with Parenteau playing Irina and AL playing Lea. Mary Brascia’s results have really taken a dip in singles. She lost to Padegimaite and then got smoked by Sheehan-Dizon, 15-4, which is not good considering Dizon got smoked in the next match to Brooke Buckner 15-1. Also, not sure what the upside is on Jenna Hessert is but she has had a solid day. She took down Lauren Stratman and did not look completely out of place against Anna Leigh. She has done well on the APP with limited reps so we’ll see how she finishes out the day. Judit Castillo Gargallo with a couple of nice wins against jorja Johnson and Padegimaite in the backdraw. Jorja, another player whose singles results have really taken a dip.
4:30 pm EST (Waggish) – Staksrud beats Rettinmaier 13-11, 11-4 then Travis withdraws in consolation bracket. Staksrud faces Jay in semi. JW singles stock continues to go down or Julian’s stock continues to go up. 11-3,6-11,11-4. Julian faces Ben in semi.
2:35 pm EST (Waggish) – Hayden fell apart in his 2nd game against DJ by hitting balls into the net and most balls long. But came together in game 3 to win (11-8,1-11,11-4). Hayden’s inconsistency and not being able to figure things out is a problem. Dylan withdrew in consolation bracket so DJ got an easy win there.
2:15 pm EST – Some of these first round matchups are brutal. Pablo Tellez having to play Christian Alshon. Jake Kusmider and Rettenmaier. Tardio and Alex Neumann. The qualifier stuff is good for these players. The biggest upset so far is Rettenmaier taking down Dylan Frazier 9 and 7. A very good win for Travis. Christian Alshon win play Ben Johns next after handling Rafa Hewett pretty easily. Good wins for Alex Neumann too, getting by Sherry in 3 games, 11-9 in the third, after beating Tardio handily in round 1. As Waggish noted below, it’s weird to see DJ Young grinding out a singles bracket. He took Patriquin to 3 games and is playing through the backdraw. Callan Dawson did not end up playing. The best way to get better at singles is to grind these brackets.
11:40 am EST (Waggish) – You can see the influence MLP may be having on the players. It is the first time I’ve seen Callan Dawson’s name in singles. And maybe DJ Young will start making it a thing for him – second time I’ve seen his name in the list. Missing from men’s is Zane. On the women’s side you see Meghan Dizon and we know how she did in singles at MLP. But we don’t see Allyce’s name.
11:15 am EST – One of the things we’ll be interested to watch today is how JW Johnson fares. His singles results have been dipping, possibly in part due to that sub-par Franklin paddle. Julian Arnold is looming in the semi-finals for him and they have had some tight battles in the past. Also, where is James Ignatowich? This is his second singles draw that he is not playing in to start out the year.
On the women’s side, there’s still no new competition for Anna Leigh so it should be up to either Lea Jansen or Catherine Parenteau to do something about it. Catherine gets the fortune of being away from AL’s half of the draw this tournament and her toughest competition for a Championship Sunday appearance may very well be Irina Tereschenko. We are still wondering how seriously Dominique Schaefer is taking pickleball and whether she can start to upset any of the better players in these events.