The PPA Tour is finally back from summer break if we’re not counting the exhibition events from the last two weekends. They are back with a bang as the PPA has taken over running Tournament of Champions (TOC), which is one of the three historical majors. We use the word “historical” somewhat in jest because the whole major thing has really changed a lot in the past year and a half. In 2019 before pro tours, it was clear that the 3 majors were the US Open, TOC and Nationals. With the evolution of the pro tours leading to increased prize money, it’s difficult to say with any certainty whether these will be the majors going forward. It’s clearly better for the sport if you can have tournaments you point to that are l the most important tournaments but you also need all the best players to show up along with having the biggest prize money at those events, which is not happening. Name and history alone do not make a major. It’s still a big event at TOC in Brigham City this year but it’s not ideal without the likes of JW, Dekel, Simone, Andrea Koop, Parris Todd, Lauren Stratman and more – especially JW and Parris in singles.
With the event being in Brigham City, Utah, we are getting the Wednesday start for singles and Championship Saturday. Doesn’t sound right, does it? For our fantasy standings that no one other than us cares about, Slim is now up 4 on the year with the gap being the closest it has been in many months. Slim won the toss and chose to pick first.
(1) Anna Leigh Waters (Slim)
(2) Anna Leigh Waters / Ben Johns (Gritty)
(3) Ben Johns (Gritty)
(4) Collin Johns / Ben Johns (Slim)
(5) Lucy Kovalova / Callie Smith (Slim)
Slim – With no Parris Todd in the field, I think Anna Leigh is a pretty safe pick first overall. It’s really too bad Parris isn’t here though as it would’ve been fun to see a rematch between her and Anna Leigh, or even Parris against other PPA stalwarts. Ben and Collin Johns might not be perfect but they are still the dominant men’s doubles team so they were an easy pick at 4. The women’s doubles field is probably the toughest field to handicap in terms of a favorite but I decided to roll with Lucy Kovolova and Callie Smith.
Gritty – The lack of Parris Todd and JW Johnson makes this tournament at the top significantly less interesting. The first 4 picks overall were very obvious but there may have been some uncertainty if those two were the field. Anna Leigh/Ben have been almost unbeatable this year while Ben should be good to go for gold in singles without JW in the field. It will be interesting to see if Federico or Ignatowich get a shot at Ben on his half of the draw or in a Championship final situation.
(6) Anna Leigh Waters / Leigh Waters (Gritty)
(7) Matt Wright / Riley Newman (Gritty)
(8) Catherine Parenteau (Slim)
(9) Riley Newman / Lindsey Newman (Slim)
(10) Lucy Kovalova / Matt Wright (Gritty)
(11) Tyson McGuffin (Gritty)
Slim – Catherine Parenteau hasn’t been able to beat Anna Leigh in singles this year but she has beaten everyone else, so she was an easy pick at 8. I decided to take Riley Newman and Lindsey Newman as the second mixed doubles team off the board. I just have to hope they avoid being on the same side of the draw as Ben and Anna Leigh.
Gritty – Very happy that Slim went with Kovalova/Smith as the Waters seem to be the better team right now. The last two picks in this portion of the draft are purely seeding based picks. Lucy/Matt should be the #2 seed and they will have a much better chance at Championship Saturday by avoiding Anna Leigh/Ben for sure – I’m not sure I would have them ahead of either the Newman’s or Jessie/Jay head-to-head, but the fact they avoid Anna Leigh/Ben makes them #2 in my eyes. Tyson won’t get the benefit of a cupcake draw with Ben back in town, but he is the #2 seed and will avoid having to play Ben. The question is whether someone like Federico or Ignatowich can beat him as at least one of them should end up on his side of the draw.
(12) Catherine Parenteau / Lea Jansen (Slim)
(13) Federico Staksrud (Slim)
(14) Lea Jansen (Gritty)
(15) James Ignatowich (Gritty)
(16) DJ Young / Dylan Frazier (Slim)
(17) Jessie Irvine / Jay Irvine (Slim)
Slim – Getting Parenteau and Jansen at 12 feels like a steal. They could win the women’s doubles, and seldom in these PPA drafts do you get gold medal potential at this point in the draft. Federico also feels like a steal. At this point he just seems like a better player than Tyson, and they won’t be able to stack this draw for Tyson with Ben in it. I love the potential of the DJ Young and Dylan Frazier partnership and think their games are good fits for each other – it helps that DJ and Dylan are good buddies. Jessie and Jay at 17 also feels like tremendous value for a team that hasn’t missed many podiums.
Gritty – It’s been a while since any of these PPA players have played singles but Lea has to still be the #3 player in this field. Ignatowich should have as good a shot to make Championship Saturday as anyone not named Ben Johns. I would love to see a Ben/Iggy match-up. Ben will undoubtedly feel some extra pressure if he sees either Fed or Iggy at any point this weekend. There’s a lot of talk of these APP singles draws being deeper and we see what has happened with JW not being able to dominant every one of them.
(18) Thomas Wilson / AJ Koller (Gritty)
(19) Jessie Irvine / Anna Bright (Gritty)
(20) Anna Bright (Slim)
(21) Callie Smith / AJ Koller (Slim)
(22) Callie Smith (Gritty)
(23) Vivienne David / Susannah Barr (Gritty)
Slim – I can’t quit Anna Bright in singles, but I may need to get a return on investment this weekend or have to start dropping her on my boards. Callie Smith and AJ Koller are probably the most unpredictable, of the top mixed teams, so I am hoping that unpredictably skews to the positive side this weekend.
Gritty – Thomas/AJ have not had a strong year together relative to expectations but they have upside to get it done. Anna has been playing lots and it will be interesting to see if she and Jessie can find a podium together. I worry that Vivienne/Susannah is a choice I made because I want them to do well but of the lower seeded women, they should be a tough out for anyone out there. Vivienne’s consistency should pair well with Susannah, despite Susannah not being a true left-side player.
(24) Julian Arnold / Patrick Smith (Slim)
(25) Dylan Frazier (Slim)
(26) Tyler Loong / Callan Dawson (Gritty)
(27) Salome Devidze (Gritty)
(28) Irina Tereschenko / Yana Grechkina (Slim)
(29) Ryan Sherry (Slim)
(30) Catherine Parenteau / Collin Johns (Gritty)
Slim – I think the Julian Arnold and Patrick Smith partnership is intriguing. I expect Smith to be a steady force on the right side and let Julian cover a fair amount of court and do whatever it is that he does. If Julian’s shot making is on, they could cause teams trouble. Dylan Frazier has been looking very solid in singles lately, and playing with the Selkirk Project 002 now, can’t hurt his singles game. I decided to take Irina Tereschenko and Yana Grechkina with the last women’s doubles pick but it was a close call between them and Allyce Jones and Meghan Sheehan-Dizon, who have been looking much improved lately. With last men’s singles pick, I had to take Ryan Sherry after hearing reports that he is tipping the scales in the 170’s and looking svelte like a model. You just have to hope the mental training hasn’t been suffering as a result.
Gritty – I chose Tyler/Callan over the bronze stallions, Tyson/Jay, and I may regret it. They aren’t the bronze stallions for nothing and this could be an overreaction to some poor results this year. Nevertheless, I really like the steadiness Tyson/Callan bring to a men’s draw that is wide open for a bronze medal. Salome Devidze is by far the worst line caller in the game, which may be bad for pickleball but it’s great for my fantasy team when she has no qualms about cheating to win. Catherine/Collin ended up 4th place in San Clemente and if Collin starts figuring out how to be more dynamic on the right side in mixed, they could give the best teams a lot of trouble with the weird, oppo-stack.
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