We wondered in our opening of our fantasy fraft preview about whether PPA contracted players could be upset about high quality APP players getting low seeds due to a lack of PPA points. For whatever reason, the draws for the entire weekend have already been released on Pickleball Tournaments. Callie Smith and AJ Koller are getting Andrea Koop and JW Johnson in round 1. Round 1! Lea Jansen could very well face Anna Bright in her first match. Interestingly, the PPA players avoided JW in their quarter of the bracket. Nevertheless, it’s something to monitor as we go on in the year. All of these are assuming draws don’t change as they tend to from time to time.
Our fantasy draft preview is here for your interest.
Sunday, March 13th – Championship Sunday
4:00 pm EST (Gritty) – A triple crown for AL and didn’t even drop a game. Mama Waters has even alluded to there only being so much time she has left to play with her daughter, but how can you ever break this partnership up so long as there is the slight possibility of tourney wins. There can’t be much better than getting a triple crown this way. I bet if you asked AL, winning less with her Mom is more important than winning more with someone else.
JW is dominant. He has clearly separated himself from the rest of the tier 2 pack. There really is no question now. 3 game win over Tyson.
2:10 pm EST (Gritty) – The Waters were down 9-2 in game 1 and were able to pull it out 12-10. It’s crazy how fast things can change. They were down less in game 2 but still down, and they went on another tear. It was a fantastic performance from the Waters as Anna Leigh really showed how dominant she is. I know Collin was doing the earlier games and Collin Johns does a good job on the commentary. But this is the first time I had heard Lea Jansen do commentary (I believe she did some in Minnesota), and I think she’s the best person I have heard doing color commentary. She clearly knows all the players out there and she’s constantly giving the viewer nuggets of information and analysis we so often do not get on pickleball broadcasts. Very much enjoyed the listen.
1:12 pm EST (Gritty) – JW and Dylan put up a very good fight against what we would consider to be the clear #2 team out there right now. Tight game one, winning game 3 and a fairly tight game 4 after Dylan Frazier needed a medical timeout for his back. It was discussed on the broadcast by Lea Jansen that the kids needed to stay aggressive and not sit back in rallies. I think this is one of their weaker points as a partnership, and it likely comes from the two being so stoic in their demeanor. There’s not enough urgency to switch things up sometimes and they have two of the best hands out there. They need to remember to stay aggressive, especially JW.
Anna Leigh and Ben continue to be a class above the rest. Easy 3 game win over Jay/Jessie. Not much else to say. Too good.
Saturday, March 12th – Doubles
10:45 pm EST (Gritty) – Tyson and Jay live! That’s a huge bronze for any prospects of their long-term partnership. Who knows where we go from here but that’s gotta help morale.
Smith/Koop rallied from an 11-0 first set loss. It’s clear Simone isn’t the player she was last year and that has to be tough for her. Less power and assume her injuries make it tougher to grind long rallies like she’s known to do.
8:50 pm EST (Gritty) – Maybe I shouldn‘t have written their obituary just yet as Jay and Tyson are grinding into the bronze. They’ll have a very winnable matchup. Loong and Todd Fought with a good day too. Fought is getting results and those Utah guys clearly respect his ability.
Newman/Wright will play the kids which was not surprising after they got through the Johns.
The women is kind of what you would expect with Parenteau/Irvine getting the Waters. The back draw is still going and we have to expect Koop/Smith will play Jardim/Kovalova.
1:20 pm EST (Gritty) – We are in a rain delay here but when we come back we won’t get the pleasure of Benny Backdraw who apparently is not contractually obligated to play back draws. The Johns bros with the classic Ben/Simone withdrawal. Sorry fans!
Jorja and Sarah had a really good match against Catherine and Jessie. Barely lost in 3. The wind is no joke as seen in the Milan/Anna vs. Blackwood/Todd matchup. But still, Jorja is really getting it done these days.
11:32 am EST (Gritty) – I wanted to talk about this but then the Johns brothers lost. Tyson/Jay. They ended up beating Jonny Pickleball and Junior Ore 9-11, 11-7, 11-1, but that’s two tight sets for an alleged top 4 seeding. Now they lost to Smith and Dawson. Reading the tea leaves, this partnership could be heading towards splitsville. I wanted to give this partnership time, but time may be up. It seems like there could be more going on behind the scenes between the two. Tyson, who is usually very open talking about his partnerships and losses, gave the most minimal mention to the performance him and Jay had in Minnesota. We both think it’s telling that he’s not talking about how they are working on things and going to figure it out. Another bad result here, another bad result there, and you really wonder how long this can last for.
Smith/Daescu great win over Koller and Wilson in 2 games. Maybe Jay wishes he had Pat back? Pat is having a huge weekend and this theoretical good fit with Daescu is turning into a legit good fit.
Jorja Johnson continues her strong run these days as her partnership with Ansboury leads to a win over Bright/Rane. That partnership not looking Bright as Rane so far. And Smith/Koop win a very tight one over Stratman/Jones. A little surprising how tight that was.
10:18 am EST (Gritty) – Down goes Frazier! Wait, sorry I have that wrong. Down goes the Johns! Quite the early upset. Extreme wind conditions out there that the always stoic JW and Dylan Frazier handled it far better than the Johns did. The Johns brothers were up 4-1 in the first and then lost 11-5 and 11-3. Literally 4 points the rest of the way. If you want to bring in the body language doctor, the Johns brothers have some of the mopiest body language it gets when they start losing. There were a bunch of net cords that went against them in game 2, but it was also clear in my mind they began pulling the trigger far too early out of frustration to try to get themselves easy rallies. It didn’t work. It’s quite the thing when Ben Johns is probably the main reason behind the single elimination format and is now suffering as a result. Time to see Benny do what we know he loves to do, which is grind backdraws. They don’t call him Benny Backdraw for nothing. The PPA is pretty fortunate JW isn’t registered for more PPAs coming up because their players suffer as a result of his low seedings in these tournaments. You have to think they may make a change to how their seeding operates as a result.
Friday, March 11th – Mixed
5:12 pm EST (Gritty) – Matt/Lucy do take home a bronze after beating Parenteau/Newman then getting some mild revenge on Waters/Smith, who ousted them from the winners bracket side. The bronzes have to be pretty disappointing for this team who is so used to playing in gold medal matches. On the other hand, they could be Parenteau/Newman who are finishing another tournament off the medal stand. It’s probably too early for these teams to be in any sort of change mode, but with PPA partnerships being so exclusive you have to think we’ll start seeing mid-year partnership changes if results continue to fall flat. Big day for Pat Smith and Leigh Waters too. That’s a surprising 4th place, at least in our eyes.
I have to mention more wins for mixed specialist assassin Allyce Jones with Spencer Smith. Wins over Simone/Dylan, Lea/Collin and Callie/AJ today.
3:17 pm EST (Gritty) – This has been a fascinating mixed day of results. Leigh Waters and Pat Smith had close to a fantastic day. They took down Collin Johns/Lea Jansen then followed that up with a huge upset of Lucy Kovalova/Matt Wright, who we may need to do further investigation into their mixed struggles. Waters/Smith played Irvine/Devilliers really tight in 2 games and just had a bit of a come back to earth game 3, losing 11-0. Smith’s health has been a concern all year but I’m even more interested to see how he does in mens with Daescu tomorrow.
Irvine/Devilliers get another Championship Sunday appearance. They have really benefited from having this #4 seed during the year. We’re going to try to dig in more to understand the PPA points as movement at the top is very limited. On the other hand, Parenteau/Newman have severely been limited by having a #2 or #3 seed this year. They put up a decent fight but having to face Anna Leigh/Ben in every semi-final is not really fair to them at all.
11:10 am EST (Gritty) – Ben gets the bronze in singles over Julian Arnold 11-6, 11-9. If there’s one thing that may have woken Ben up this morning, it could have been not letting the “Andiamo’s” beat him.
Mixed day is quickly becoming the most fun day with how strong all the teams are. Nothing shocking because all the teams are so tough, but lots to note. Bright/Loong over Stratman/McGuffin 11-8, 11-8. That partnership with Bright is perfect for her right now in mixed as she gets to be straight ahead with the opposing female.
AJ and Callie in 3 tight ones over JW and Andrea. This felt like the most unfair first round matchup for both teams. Allyce Jones, mixed specialist, getting more Ws as her and Spencer Smith get it over Simone/Dylan in 3. And then the newest serve controversy specialist, Lea Jansen, is ousted with her partner Collin Johns by Leigh Waters and Pat Smith. Still giving that partnership time even though early results have not been promising.
Thursday, March 10th – Singles
9:34 pm EST (Gritty) – Jorja Johnson gets a very impressive bronze with a 15-13 win over Callie Smith and then taking over against Parris Todd after a close first half of game 1. Johnson needs a little more to be truly elite in singles but the improvement has been super steady for the youngster. Big credit to her.
Benny backdraw will play the bronze against Julian Arnold tomorrow morning at 9:30 am EST. Fired up Julian vs. slow starting contractually obligated to play Ben. Could be intriguing.
4:50 pm EST (Gritty) – Alex Neumann’s career day is stopped by Tyson. It’s a big breakthrough with very legit wins. Neumann has been getting some wins at pro but losses in the last two tourneys to William Sobek did not indicate any sort of major breakthrough forthcoming. McGuffin gets a far easier road than Johns and that won’t change anytime soon with the way it seems PPA points work. Ben will play for bronze. You can be sure he is a happy camper.
Lea Jansen beat Callie Smith in two tight games and she’ll get Waters on Sunday. Bright goes down to Salome Devidze who then lost to Todd. Devidze played Anna in Punta Gorda and looked solid, but this is still a surprise. Jorja Johnson squeaked out a win over Callie Smith 15-13 and that’s 2 of the last 3 tourneys where Smith has lost to seemingly lesser opponents. Full credit to Jorja who should have the edge in the bronze.
3:05 pm EST (Slim) – JW knocks off Ben Johns in three games, 5-11, 11-6, 11-6. It is a huge win for JW as his singles ascent this year continues. I will be very surprised if anyone can beat JW in the finals on championship Sunday. JW and Ben seem to be in a different class then everyone else, but is starting to look like a class of two. In the other semi-final Tyson McGuffin will face Alex Neumann who is having a career day, defeating Jay Devilliers 11-7, 11-9 in the quarter finals.
On the womens side Lea Jansen defeated Anna Bright 11-4, 11-9. In the second game Bright showed glimpses of her talent, and seemed more settled and was coming to the net more regularly. The biggest difference in my mind though between the two is Lea is much more comfortable operating at the net currently. I also think Bright needs to become more comfortable going down the line with her two hand backhand.
Also Lea Jansen’s serve is going to be a talking point, she posted about herself in the pickleball forum but it is obviously going to draw a lot of her attention. Live it just looks illegal (too high and side arm), slowed down it does appear that she often is making contact below her waist, but not every time.
1:30 pm EST (Slim) – Women’s first round matches are in the book, of note Anna Bright took down Allyce Jones 11-8, 11-3 to set up a match against Lea, which should give us an idea of where her singles game is at relative to the top players. Another notable result was Salome Devidze beat Jorja Johnson in 3 games, 11-7, 3-11, 11-9. Salome is a relative newcomer who seems to just to be playing singles but she was once ranked around #250 in the world in tennis in both singles and doubles, so she has a very strong tennis foundation.
On the mens side Ben Johns beat Ryler Deheart 17-15, 11-3 in a very hard fought first game. Ryler is eextremely talented but he needs to figure out how to be able to do more on his backhand at the net if he wants to compete at the highest level. Ben was repeatedly dropping to Ryler’s backhand.
12:25 pm EST (Gritty) – Tough loss for Staksrud as he loses in 3 to Devilliers. Won game 1 and lost game 2 15-13 before ultimately losing 11-8. Devilliers stranglehold as a top singles player is becoming concerning.
FAD over Jack Foster easily and DeHeart over Sherry in 2 not that close games. So much talent all over the place these days.
Also, if anyone knows what Damien Spizzo’s situation is please advise…he had the 15 seed today somehow and the PPA streamed his loser’s bracket match versus Joey Farias. He coaches the Johnson’s and seems he has to have some kind of in with the PPA. There’s other things that would indicate this as well.
11:15 am EST (Gritty) – Federico Staksrud is starting to get results. Noted him on the live blog last weekend and he beats Dylan Frazier easily based on the scores. He’ll get Jay Devilliers and that score will be something to monitor. A couple of other minor results are Alex Neumann beating Loong, who had been having a very solid singles 2022, and Ryler DeHeart over Julian Arnold. DeHeart in his late 30s but when you were literally a pro singles tennis player there is something in the tank.