Breaking Down New Partnerships in Pickleball for 2022

📸 Tyson McGuffin

New partnerships are always intriguing. The Hollywood gossip industry is, in large part, driven by relationships – J-Lo and Ben Afflect, Pete Davidson and Kim Kardsashian, Tom Holland and Zendaya, the list goes on and on. Oddly enough, pickleball features some of this high school type gossip and we are here for it. Who dumped who in favor of who, who will the dump-ee rebound with etc. Not only does it create drama, but more importantly it keeps things fresh for the fans. New partnerships means new matchups and lots of speculation as to how it impacts the sport. With pro pickleball being a real thing, new partnerships are more business focused than ever before. We don’t have all of the partnerships figured out for 2022 but we’re here to provide you with a breakdown of the most notable and known new partnerships coming to you in the new year.

Men’s Doubles

Matt Wright / Riley Newman (Slim) – On paper Riley and Matt should be a dominant team, they are the second and third rated men’s doubles players in our rankings. There also has to be zero doubt that when these two partnered their goal was to be THE dominant team in men’s doubles, so the pressure will be there. I suspect they will just hit their way through the vast majority of teams, as few teams will be able to come close to matching this team in hand battles. Against the other elite men’s teams, like the Johns brothers, who they no doubt are planning to knock off, it will be interesting to see how they play and how their chemistry gels. They are both very aggressive players who want the middle balls and generally seem to prefer to play on the left side, although both have spent some time on that right side in their previous partnerships. If they can figure out their style and chemistry they will be a dominant force, however those are rather large ifs, so don’t be surprised if we see a couple of hiccups.

Tyson McGuffin / Jay Devilliers (Gritty) -From a pickleball standpoint, the fit appears to be pretty seamless. McGuffin, elite beta, with some alpha qualities. Devilliers, tier 1/2ish alpha, with a ton of court coverage ability. This team looks like it is going to be very strong. My only concern is lack of elite weapons. What potentially holds Devilliers back from the other top alpha men’s doubles players is that he doesn’t have that natural power and hand speed that the truly elite players possess. While Pat Smith has his flaws, he has an incredible forehand in combination with wicked strong hands. This team will be uber consistent but can they upset the big dogs?

Interestingly, our understanding is that this is a partnership forged by business. We don’t know much more than the fact Devilliers was offered representation from McGuffin’s agent in exchange for being Tyson’s partner. We are quite confident there is more to the deal than simply an agent for Jay, but we don’t have any details. This is a first for pickleball and it will be something to monitor if business drives more partnerships in the future.

Tyler Loong/Rob Nunnery, AJ Koller and Callan Dawson

I’m not sold on Loong’s ceiling, but it was evident he needs someone with more weapons than Spencer Smith if he wants to do more than hit the very occasional podium. Both Nunnery and Koller have the weapons to supplement Loong’s steady game. I like the Koller partnership slightly more than Nunnery because I think Koller is a better alpha than Nunnery at this stage. The Dawson partnership seems doomed to be mediocre.

AJ Koller/Thomas Wilson, Rob Nunnery and Tyler Loong

AJ will be slated to play a lot with his cousin, Thomas Wilson, and they have already shown they can have success. Wilson won gold with DJ Young recently at the APP World Pickleball Open and he should just get better with time. He is legit. I like the Koller/Nunnery partnership – a lot of speed ups.

Rob Nunnery/AJ Koller, Tyler Loong, JW Johnson and Pat Smith

It sounds like Rob/AJ are playing a lot of PPAs together. Nunnery said on his podcast he has a few with JW and a couple of tournaments with Pat Smith. Putting JW with anyone who is a borderline elite player and above is going to pique my interest. It’s a strong hands pairing for Nunnery with JW by his side. Unfortunately, Pat Smith has lost out on partners because of Devilliers going with Tyson, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he is left behind at the end of 2022.

Andrei Daescu / Zane Navratil

This will be an APP partnership and one that should have lots of success. Zane’s doubles game appears less frenetic these days and he is smart to find an alpha like Andrei who can complement his game. Daescu should benefit immensely from regular tournament play.

Women’s Doubles

Callie Smith / Lucy Kovalova (Slim) – One thing I am quite sure of is that no women’s team will counter harder than this team. Callie and Lucy both have heavy hands. The biggest thing to watch for with this team is Callie’s unforced errors. She seems to make few more errors than the other top women. The caveat is that a lot of those errors came with her trying to cover more court with lesser partners, which shouldn’t be an issue with Kovalova, but it is likely that she will see that majority of the balls, so her ability to limit unforced errors will critical to this team’s success.

Simone Jardim / Lea Jansen (Slim) – So much of how this partnership will depend on Simone’s health, a subject we have spent a fair amount of time on in this space. Something that could help in theis regard is Lea’s ability to cover the court and lessen the load for Simone. Part of the problem with the Simone and Lucy partnership this year after Simone got hurt, was that Lucy is very much a right side player at this point, and does not seem to be suited to cover extra court, leaving Simone often grinding extensively on the left side and still having to cover a fair amount of court. Lea has better court coverage than most of the ladies on tour and, in combination with her aggressiveness and improving weapons, should be a good complement for Simone’s game

📸 Belinda Elaine Photography

Mixed Doubles

Anna Leigh Waters / Ben Johns (Gritty) – The most fascinating new partnership of 2022 that we have already talked quite a bit about. Ben is on record saying he won’t be changing the way he plays mixed with Anna Leigh by his side, but let’s see if he actually sees that one through. I am on record saying that Ben may want to take a little bit less court overall, and I definitely think he should be doing that with Anna Leigh. However, it may not matter what the hell Ben does at the end of the day with these two being the best in the business in my view.

Callie Smith / AJ Koller and Dekel Bar (Gritty) – Callie’s mixed results are well documented as being, well, mixed. She lacks some consistency in the soft game and her hard charging, aggressive game is less effective against some of the stronger men. It appears to be a fairly recent development that AJ Koller is going to be her primary partner with Dekel Bar being the secondary one. The AJ/Callie partnership is one that could be described using our most overused term – upside. A lot of aggression between the two with AJ’s tricky speed ups and both player’s very quick hands. I expect we could see this partnership go boom or bust on any given tournament week, but AJ has been a very consistent mixed player so this could end up being a scary, unexpected partnership.

Lea Jansen / Tyson McGuffin (Slim) – This team will certainly compete, and I have no doubt that they will always be in the mix, but I do wonder if they have enough weapons and the hands to hold up with the very top mixed teams, like Matt and Lucy and Ben and Anna Leigh. As training partners, they should have some of the better chemistry on the tour, and they are also two players who are always working on their games, so I am certainly not going to bet against them. However, I think to have a real chance against the top teams, they are going to have to find ways to turn the matches into long dog fights, with elite defense. If they can do that, their athleticism and conditioning could give them a real edge.

Jessie Irvine / Jay Devilliers (Gritty) – This isn’t really a new partnership as we saw them play a handful of tournaments in 2021 already. We’ve already seen the pair have quite a bit of success and I expect them to do well in 2022. Jessie Irvine still plays off the kitchen line too often for my liking but there’s no doubt it seems to be working for her in both mixed and women’s right now. The playing and personality fit of these two players has proven to be a good one, and we’ll see how it holds up over the course of a calendar year.

Simone Jardim / JW Johnson – We saw this partnership one time at Hilton Head, and it led to gold in a strong APP field. Any Simone partnership is going to be health dependent in 2022. If she’s healthy, this will be a strong partnership. This is not an exclusive mixed partnership between the two.

Vivienne David / Dekel Bar and DJ Young – These are interesting partnershps for Vivienne who has had major success recently, but these partnerships are more upside than consistency. There are very few truly elite mixed partners out there. Can Dekel figure out mixed in 2022? Can DJ be legitimately consistent? If the answer to both those questions is yes, Vivienne will be one to watch in mixed next year.

Agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments below or email us at

19 thoughts on “Breaking Down New Partnerships in Pickleball for 2022

  • December 23, 2021 at 7:04 am

    Thanks so much guys!
    Here are some of my grades.
    A Tier-
    Matt and Riley. While there probably will be a few hiccups at the start, I expect this team to find their rhythm by March/April and be constantly competing for Gold.

    Ben and Anna Leigh. Top two players for their gender events in my opinion, I expect them to gel well.

    Callie Smith and Lucy Kovalova They round out my A tier due to their amazing hands and both of their desires to win

    Teams I want to succeed

    Love both Tyson and Jay, I just hope they have the weapons to stay with the top two teams. I think they can do it any given tournament, even if not consistently.

    Callie and AJ. I find this partnership intriguing with AJ’s consistency and great attacks, I think that will compliment Callie’s game. I’d love to see them on top of the podium.

    Tyler Loong and Partner. Tyler and Spencer were just outside the podium so many times this year, it seemed like 4th was their magic number 🤦‍♂️ They showed they could compete with anyone on any given day so I’m curious if Tyler will see some more podiums this year. I hope so.

    • December 23, 2021 at 8:22 am

      A lot of these newer partnerships seem like good matches. The PPA is very top heavy though for Tyler to breakthrough in those tourneys. Higher end partners for him will be interesting to see as it seems his game stays basically the same, but his steadiness and good hands keep him competitive

      • December 23, 2021 at 6:49 pm

        Yes that is a good point about Tyler. It’s almost as if his higher end opponents need to have an off day to get by them.

        • January 29, 2022 at 8:45 am

          I would think that Tyler would be a good partner for an elite “Left-Side” player since he is left handed and likes to Ernie so much that he wouldn’t take much of the court? Plus the fact that he has one of the best overhead wrist slaps in the game wouldn’t hurt either. New to the blog but love it. Keep up the great work!

          • January 29, 2022 at 9:32 pm

            No doubt this is the case. He doesn’t really have it this year. Nunnery is good but not elite left side. Callan is not the best fit in our view

  • December 23, 2021 at 8:07 pm

    What about Parenteau….anyone know who she’s playing with this year?

    • December 24, 2021 at 7:48 am

      She’ll be playing with Jessie Irvine in women’s and she’ll have a lot of mixed with Riley Newman

        • January 2, 2023 at 9:01 pm

          They are pseudonyms us as the writers of the blog

  • December 26, 2021 at 10:54 am

    ” We don’t know much more than the fact Devilliers was offered representation from McGuffin’s agent in exchange for being Tyson’s partner. We are quite confident there is more to the deal than simply an agent for Jay, but we don’t have any details.”

    This is fascinating, even if the agent wasn’t the whole motivation. Is there a PB agent that’s *so good* that you’d go with him/her if they weren’t interested in you alone, only if you can help another of their contracted players?

  • December 26, 2021 at 12:58 pm

    I would say that the tm jd partnership is a result of a simple calculus. tm needed a new partner, and had to quickly find the best available partner. jd imo was likely also looking to upgrade his partnership, and a new partnership was born out of necessity. The other factor is the ME connection. I think the partnership is intriguing. On paper it looks promising. I don’t see it being quite as strong as tm and rn partnership, however.

    I am more interested in who’s been grinding the last 2 months, and wants to make a leap.

    the changing partnerships will make things interesting.

    I think an increasingly hot topic will be the game theory used by certain players to help decide where to put their energy, ppa or app.
    the thinking can be boiled down to the following. do you want to be a big fish in a small pond, or a small fish in bigger pond? You may be able to do more for your brand and income by being the former—as long as nobody else really good does. that’s what zn believes, anyway. jw seems to be betting on himself long term, by not signing a paddle sponsorship, or a deal with the ppa.

    • December 27, 2021 at 3:32 pm

      “do you want to be a big fish in a small pond, or a small fish in bigger pond? You may be able to do more for your brand and income by being the former—as long as nobody else really good does.”

      Yeah, but this was *exactly* the position Devilliers was in, and he still decided to commit to the PPA.

      • December 28, 2021 at 10:35 am

        That’s kinda the point I was making. I said some folks will have to decide what they want to do; and it might not be a straightforward decision. I never said one choice was better than the other.

        jd decided ppa was best for him. I don’t know if even had a real choice, given he committed to partner up with tm, who is all in on PPA, and who has never played an APP event, if I recall history correctly.

        It appears that db and jwj so far are keeping their options open. db buddies, as and cc, have some ties to app and that may have something to do with db maybe wanting to play some of those events next year. these are all just guesses.

        zn has put it all on APP. not too surprising given he has good friends over there who helped get the tour off the ground. his relationship is even stronger with APP in 2022, given his clinic partnership.

        But think about it from his perspective. Given the respective fields, he has a chance to medal in all 3 events at every APP in 2022 he enters, with a legit shot to win gold as well. He would not have this opportunity on the ppa tour. He will also be the tour’s marquee player, unless someone comes from out of the blue and disrupts the power balance.

        Another factor is that his decision has to be good for FRANKLIN, which now should have the top two players on each tour “sewn up”. And one less challenger nipping at bj’s heels in ppa singles events.

        • December 28, 2021 at 2:08 pm

          The decision becomes much more straightforward when PPA is paying minimum $2,500 in appearance fees per tourney for a player. That’s a lot of guaranteed money for a pb player and APP can’t match that. It makes sense why so many are going that direction. Less tourneys but more guaranteed money? Sign me up. We’ll have to see if APP can survive this

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  • September 2, 2022 at 11:48 pm

    I think a major overlook here is the Kawamoto twins. They gel very well together and seem to be able to be the alpha in mixed doubles. They are so relaxed yet precise in their shots; and are very good at set ups. I think they will be moving up the ladder quickly this year.

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