Leigh Waters Loses Control Over Lobs at PPA Championships

Authored by: Gritty

I wanted to put a separate post for this Leigh Waters lob-gate fiasco as that stuff can get lost in a live blog. You can look at my initial thoughts on the live blog and the video of the incident on our Twitter account or our Instagram. In my opinion, it is the strangest and wildest 3 plus minutes of pickleball in 2022.

The attempted short version of what happened is that part way through game 2 of the Waters quarter-final match, Yana Grechkina and Regina Franco decided to implement the lob everything into the sun strategy. After whiffing on a second overhead to make the score 8-6, Leigh lost her mind and started yelling at Grechkina/Franco for using the lob strategy in spite of Anna Leigh’s attempt to pull her back. Grechkina responded by saying “a strategy is a strategy, calm down” and proceeded to gesture to the crowd to get louder. The Waters lost the next point and their trainer (not coach), Brandon Oakes, tried to calm Leigh down. Following the timeout, Leigh then decided the right thing to do was to stay at the baseline to avoid the sun where they lost the point. Anna Leigh returned the next one long as Leigh stood beside her and game 2 was over.

It is arguably the weirdest thing you will see in professional sports all year. I saw some people on Facebook complaining about the Tennis Channel broadcaster’s lack of pickleball knowledge, but they sure nailed this lob-gate thing. The one announcer commented “I have never in my life seen somebody mad about using the elements.” As the Waters came out of their timeout, the announcers had more to say that had the tone of “suck it up.” 

I did not get to see game 3 as the PPA conveniently cut off the YouTube stream after game 2. My understanding is that the Tennis Channel broadcast continued but the YouTube stream did not get running again until after the Waters’ match was over. Although the sound and video were not matching up on the YouTube stream, the signs point to the PPA trying to protect their star duo from any additional meltdown implications from game 3. The Waters ended up winning 11-6 in the third game so none of it really mattered from a results standpoint. Intentional or not, the tantrum thrown by Leigh was something else.

The fact of the matter is that the Waters are currently the premiere women’s doubles team in pickleball. They were playing a team that shouldn’t have been all that competitive on paper. A team that was smart enough to try a David-type strategy in an attempt to shake things up. They shook things up more than they ever could have expected. How can you be part of the best team in the world and be mad when a team tries to do something funky to win a professional match against you? Take it as a compliment they have to resort to lobs rather than this ridiculous tunnel vision mindset that pickleball shouldn’t be played a certain way.

Disclaimer: Someone sent this. We weren’t clever enough to put it together

No wonder why the Tennis Channel broadcasters were appalled. This is a professional sport not your local rec play on a Sunday afternoon. Imagine if this were to happen in another sport. I think I have already heard Casey Patterson make about 14 beach volleyball analogies. It’s like being mad when Nick Kyrgios throws in an underhand serve. Just because it isn’t traditional, does not mean it isn’t 100% viable.  

I’d be curious to hear what Leigh has to say about this after the fact. What was her mind set on the time? Does she still agree with how she behaved after the fact? We had a couple of people comment on social media to the tune of the strategy being legal, but wrong. It’s hard for me how to comprehend that logic when it comes to a professional sport. Baseball players don’t yell at the hitter after they lose a fly ball in the sun.

What an odd sequence of events. And definitely not a good look for Mama Waters.

Agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments below or email us at nmlpickleball@gmail.com. Follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook too!

73 thoughts on “Leigh Waters Loses Control Over Lobs at PPA Championships

  • October 9, 2022 at 1:00 am
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    Thank you for posting. First, let’s thank President Nixon for starting the first ‘gate incident. Second, let’s thank the PPA for childlike and unprofessional behavior in cutting the third game from social media. Thank you, Bryce Morgan and Connor Pardoe, another great decision for your PPA fans. Oh, about Leigh Waters, it is legal, but it is frustrating, but she is a professional, but… That’s it. 🙂

    Reply
    • October 9, 2022 at 4:31 am
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      PPA Tour didn’t cut it from social media. The stream went down because the audio and video weren’t matching up. Convenient? Yes very likely, but they didn’t take it off social media

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      • October 9, 2022 at 6:21 am
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        Surprised it takes more than 2 minutes (time-out between games in a match) to switch an audio input feed!

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      • October 9, 2022 at 10:06 am
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        Ah ok thanks for adding that context

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    • December 2, 2022 at 5:47 pm
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      Haha. Your comment about President Nixon is the precursor to the rest of your comment being equally bereft of intellect.

      Reply
  • October 9, 2022 at 3:24 am
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    It was interesting seeing Anna Leigh immediately grab her mom’s arm to try to keep her from getting into a fight.

    I’m not the world’s greatest lip reader, but it also looks like when they’re coming out of the timeout, Anna Leigh is walking toward the court, then turns around to walk back to her mom and says “no you need to calm down”.

    Felt like the adult and the teenager had switched roles for a moment, Parent Trap style.

    Reply
    • October 9, 2022 at 9:28 am
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      Two comments here…

      1. I can’t find the first two games of this match on the YouTube recording (seems like it’s been removed). If so, then the PPA is definitely protecting the Watters, which is a huge mistake in my mind.

      2. The way Leigh “postured up” from across the net was aggressive, have to applaud Yana for not backing down!

      3. Does NML stand for “No More Lobs”? 😂😂😂

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      • October 9, 2022 at 10:36 am
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        There are 2 YouTube recordings from yesterday. The first two games of that match, including the meltdown, are at the end of the shorter video. They aren’t censoring this.

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    • October 9, 2022 at 10:05 am
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      Great point about role reversal. What is crazy is in the moment at least Leigh seems to think she is in the right

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      • December 2, 2022 at 5:49 pm
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        Speaking of crazy, thank you for your comment.

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  • October 9, 2022 at 4:34 am
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    Really ridiculous behavior from Leigh. Like the comment above it seemed ALW acted much more like the adult. ALW knew it was just a strategy or tactic used. That’s why we switch sides in PBall, so both teams have to deal with the elements. Absolutely fair and smart strategy by Yana and Regina

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      • December 2, 2022 at 6:23 pm
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        You two should get a room and form the mutual admiration society for the demonizing of Leigh Waters. LOL. Let us know how it goes.

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    • October 9, 2022 at 1:22 pm
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      All that aside I’m almost ready to ignore that electronic scoreboard lol! Why even have it (although I think it’s very necessary) if they can’t get it right most of the time. Sometimes it’s off by two whole points before being updated to reflect the correct score. Who is in charge (what a laugh) if the scoreboard ? C’mon get it right! Go ahead, make your excuses now. 🤣

      Reply
  • October 9, 2022 at 4:57 am
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    LW should take a long break and seek the mental help she needs. Shameful act by the PPA for cutting the most entertaining moment in pickleball history.

    “Welcome to the PPA, where we protect and ignore sociopathic behavior”

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    • October 9, 2022 at 10:06 am
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      That may be a bridge too far for us to get on board with…

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    • December 2, 2022 at 6:25 pm
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      No doubt you can recommend a competent psychiatrist from your personal experience?

      Reply
  • October 9, 2022 at 5:45 am
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    At the pro level, maybe I agree with some of this. But I also think some of the haters might be a little hypocritical if you read facebook. It regularly comes up that lobs are unfair – especially the lobbing of “old folk”. Sure it’s easy for Anna Leigh not to care who runs around with rabbit energy. But not so much her mother.

    I don’t agree with this sentiment but I’m not one of the haters of Leigh temporarily becoming emotional. Sure maybe a pro shouldn’t have emotions. But how many times have we seen bennyboy “check out” of a match and lose. Or his ego get so big he thinks everyone down to a security guard should know who he is.

    Leigh understands the strategy of lobbing. She obviously felt “picked on” and may have thought it was unsportsman to do it. I’m sure all of pickleball will be watching to see if there’s a pattern that develops here. And if all Waters WD opponents start lobbing like crazy. That may be the biggest consequence to Leigh in showing her emotions.

    And let’s not forget McEnroe. He had plenty of tantrums on court.

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    • October 9, 2022 at 6:12 am
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      Leigh Waters isn’t old folk. She’s in her early 40s and very athletic. She is not a risk to fall over and break her hip.

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    • October 9, 2022 at 7:04 am
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      Calling out Mrs. Waters for a public meltdown doesn’t make someone a “hater”.

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      • December 2, 2022 at 5:39 pm
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        No but it might make you an idiot. Lobbing into the sun is poor sportsmanship, and if you think it’s fair then you advocate cheating.

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    • October 9, 2022 at 9:37 am
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      No one is advocating for emotionless play. If you want to criticize Ben for checking out, go for it. Another false comparison is conflating McEnroe emotions with what what we saw yesterday. Her delusional rage was directed toward the opponents.

      Nothing compares to this in the history of Pro pickleball or tennis, which is exactly why someone who cares about “brand PPA” chose to censor it.

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      • December 2, 2022 at 5:44 pm
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        “Delusional rage.” Perhaps your comment is delusional rage. Your emotionally charged comment would not be necessary if you thought you were on solid ground. The playing environment in pickleball or any sport should be the same for both contenders. Lobbing into the sun is a strategy employed by people who can’t win with their talent, so they find a way to cheat, legally. “Nothing compares to this in the history of pro pickleball or tennis…” LMAO. Who do you think you are kidding? Oh, only yourself. That make sense. Get a grip and stop whining.

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    • October 9, 2022 at 10:09 am
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      McEnroe’s tantrums usually had to do with umpire line calls. Never had to do with opponent strategy. She can’t get mad at other people for picking on her in any way in my view

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      • October 9, 2022 at 6:35 pm
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        NML,
        Okay. I may have read more into the “tone” of your post than you intended.
        From the video, I had a hard time judging the extent of the court rage and just how out of control she was. From ALW’s reactions, she must have thought her mom had gone “on tilt”.

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        • October 10, 2022 at 12:10 pm
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          AL’s reactions almost say it all and then in the timeout. Unclear what she was saying

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  • October 9, 2022 at 5:47 am
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    It is an annoying tactic. Professional Baseball has many unwritten rules that seem silly to a fan but to a player it feels disrespectful to the game for opponents to use cheap tricks to win. It is a part of the game and legal but unsportsmanlike like use of the situation.

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    • October 9, 2022 at 7:42 am
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      Tell me you’ve never played competitive sports without telling me you’e never played competitive sports.

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      • October 10, 2022 at 10:21 pm
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        Lobs are part of the game. But intentionally lobbing into the sun is unsportsmanlike. I don’t blame Leigh Waters for being upset. After lob #3 I would have wasted a point and drilled the forward serve-receiving player on my next serve. Anna Leigh showed maturity by telling her mother to chill.

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        • December 2, 2022 at 6:29 pm
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          Ahhh. Finally a commenter with integrity and courage. A nice departure from all the immature whiners here who love to bloviate their hate for someone they could not beat on the court.

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    • October 9, 2022 at 10:09 am
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      It’s not a cheap trick. It’s a legitimate strategy that the Waters could also employ should they choose to do so

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      • October 11, 2022 at 5:49 am
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        Yeah, the Waters duo COULD HAVE employed that cheap strategy but from my observation they didn’t. That strategy would only work from one side of the court and only Grechkina and Goldberg took advantage of it — repeatedly. It was bush league even though it wasn’t illegal.

        If you can’t beat someone on pure skill then I guess employing bush league tactics is what you are left with. IMO that’s not how the game should be played.

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        • October 11, 2022 at 6:16 am
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          You seem to be confusing a recreational, social game with the professional game. Money matters. In all outdoor professional sports, natural element strategies are omnipresent.

          The “Bush League” reference was cute. It immediately took my mind to the attitude and actions of LH. Interesting how some people look through the telescope the opposite way.

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          • October 11, 2022 at 7:08 am
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            Yes, natural elements are present and must be dealt with by both teams. The wind blows at the back of one team and in the face of the other. But then the court sides are switched and each team deals with the same advantage or disadvantage. IMO that’s completely different than lobbing a ball into the sun. The Waters duo COULD HAVE similarly taken a competitive advantage of the sun by lobbing shot after shot against their opponents — but didn’t.

            Sportsmanship is an integral part of both the recreational and the professional game. Playing for money shouldn’t dictate whether one checks their sportsmanship at the door.

        • October 11, 2022 at 6:48 am
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          I see what you’re saying but this is a totally different level of play. If you’re at THIS level of play, shouldn’t you be able to handle 99% of all types of shots? What about sunglasses? What about entering INDOOR tourneys ONLY? What about letting it bounce? Did all the other pros have a problem with lobs and the sun? Again…this is a bigtime, professional tournament….not our usual “let’s all get along and have fun”, 2-hour play at the local rec center when a 4.0 lobs into the sun against a 2.0.

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          • October 11, 2022 at 7:22 am
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            Both of the Waters were wearing sunglasses. Sunglasses provide little help when one is looking skyward for the lob directly into the sun.

            Suggesting that the Waters team enter only indoor events? Seriously?

            I didn’t view all of the matches so I can’t opine whether other duos similarly took advantage (or were subjected to the disadvantage) of the sun conditions by having their opponents continually lobbing balls. But in the several other matches I did watch that was not the case. It certainly was the purposeful intent of Grechkina and Goldberg to do so and IMO it was unsportsmanlike and bush league. Clearly others feel that sportsmanship may take a holiday when the players are professional.

          • October 11, 2022 at 8:09 am
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            If they were lobbing every single shot, I’d agree with you. But they merely picked up on an opponent’s weakness and went after her a couple times with a completely legal tactic. Are you also against targeting opponents in tourneys?

            I guess we’ll agree to disagree on this.

            P.S. You didn’t pick up on my sarcasm re playing only indoor tourneys. 🙂

          • October 13, 2022 at 11:03 am
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            There is a match with Steve Deakin and Spencer Smith in men’s pro where their opponents lobbed them the entite hame

          • October 11, 2022 at 8:50 am
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            My sarcasm app was turned off. 😀

            As I said I don’t dispute the “legality” of lobbing. That strategy is part of the game. From my observation it is not one that is frequently employed at the professional level. The risk/reward ratio is usually too high. The Waters’ opponents employed it inordinately in their match. Why was that? Because they had success on at least three occasions (and they tried it on many other ocassions) due to the advantage lobbing offered them — not because of the lob itself but by combining it with the position of the sun.

            Targeting is a normal part of the game, as is “normal” lobbing. No one is at a competitive advantage or disadvantage with either tactic EXCEPT when lobbing is done to give a considerable competitive advantage due to the location of the sun. Was it legal? Absolutely. Was it good sportsmanship? Nope.

        • December 2, 2022 at 6:31 pm
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          Yes! Thank you! Nice to see a comment containing truth and sportsmanship. So many whiners here looking for cheap virtue by piling on with the haters. So LAME.

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    • October 15, 2022 at 8:03 pm
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      Well said. There’s nothing illegal about it, but it feels cheap at that level. Bush league, as another post stated.
      I totally support playing in the elements and using them as they are presented. But this started to feel cheap, frankly. Almost like it was taking advantage of a poorly designed court. Perhaps the court’s angle should have never been placed the way that it was.

      Reply
      • October 15, 2022 at 8:08 pm
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        There’s one way to have courts and it’s a north south orientation. But the sun will still inevitably be in eyes if ball goes up at certain times of the day. It’s the nature of a rotating planet

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  • October 9, 2022 at 7:02 am
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    There is NOTHING unsportsmanlike in utilizing a lob in professional pickleball. Period.

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    • December 2, 2022 at 6:34 pm
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      No. You are absolutely WRONG. Or you love cheating. Either way, lobbing into the sun against your opponents is a tacit acknowledgement that you cannot beat them with your talent and skill. And you’re an amateur for your silly declaration as if you were the ultimate authority. Yawn.

      Reply
  • October 9, 2022 at 7:35 am
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    Kudos to AL. At that age it would have been easy for me to just let it happen because I don’t want to go against my parent, but she acted quick and extinguished the fire as much as she could.

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  • October 9, 2022 at 9:37 am
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    Watched it all on the Tennis Channel and my takeaway was that AL handled the situation with a maturity far beyond her 15 years. Leigh was way out of line in challenging the other team to “play them straight up”. Whiffing on a couple of those lobs had to hurt her ego and having the crowd pumped up for her opponents added fuel. It will be interesting to see if Leigh issues any kind of a statement now that she’s (presumably) calmed down and sees how out of line her behavior was.

    Reply
  • October 9, 2022 at 10:25 am
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    “It’s like being mad when Nick Kyrgios throws in an underhand serve.” But… his opponents *do* often get visibly mad? Not to mention the tennis FANS, who get outraged by it. WRT LW, I think lobbing is totally fine, but a bit of trash talk and trying to shame your opponents to change a strategy is also *itself* a strategy, and totally fine in a pro game with money on the line. When it looked like she was actually going to charge the net, though, that was indeed weird :).

    The conspiratorial stuff about the feed is weak. At some point, people are going to have to understand that the tours care about and benefit from professional network coverage, and the free streams are a cherry on top, not the main priority. It’s weird that people complain endlessly if the feed quality isn’t perfect, but then also complain when they have to stop/restart it to fix it. On Facebook, someone was complaining that they should change the onscreen graphics because the FB “Live” badge covered the score for her 🙄

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  • October 9, 2022 at 1:32 pm
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    So she lost her ish over something and barked at an opponent. Is it the first time she did it? How many years has she played pro? It was out of character and shocking because of that. Cut her some slack, maybe something is going on in her “real life” that triggered her. If it happened all the time that’s another issue, that is not the case here.

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  • October 10, 2022 at 6:20 am
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    Anyone else find it interesting that the Waters changed how our game is played with their power (banger) style but are upset that another team changed the game with their constant lobs?

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      • December 2, 2022 at 6:18 pm
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        No. Not a fair point. And Lizzy is the type of player who constantly hits to the weaker player in rec play. Nothing to be proud of for sure.

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        • January 4, 2023 at 5:42 am
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          Jimmy in your world everyone gets a trophy

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    • October 11, 2022 at 5:47 am
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      That’s what I thought when I first witnessed her tantrum. What was the Waters duo’s attitude when other pros initially weren’t happy with their attacking style on every point. I heard comments (from rec players) like “that’s not pb” and “they can’t even dink” and of course “that’s tennis, not pb”. During a 4.0 tennis match in which my partner was angry over the other team standing on the baseline and using high lobs into the sun to win in a 3rd set tie break, I must say I laughed in agreement when during the handshake our opponents said to her “if you can’t beat the game, don’t mock the game”. I don’t believe it is unsportsmanlike at all.

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      • December 2, 2022 at 5:53 pm
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        Face it. You’re envious of Leigh Waters because she’s a far better player than you will ever be.

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    • October 11, 2022 at 1:45 pm
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      You’re so right! People would comment all the time about their “banger” style and say it wasn’t how pb was supposed to be played. 😂

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    • December 2, 2022 at 5:51 pm
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      You poor dunce. It wasn’t about the lob. It was about lobbing into the sun. You voted for Bide, right?

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    • December 2, 2022 at 6:15 pm
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      Another Biden voter, guaranteed. Easy to tell by the smug condescension.

      Reply
  • October 10, 2022 at 10:33 am
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    Perhaps in my lifetime the 50-year-old “–gate” suffix will be phased out. It might take an upstate New York toothpaste scandal to do it though…. yes friends, “Colgate-colgate-gate.” (ugh, I know.) Seriously, I hope Pickleball will grow to the point where we have on-site media coverage daily, with post-match interviews with the players after notable events in earlier rounds, like this. Nice timely article, by the way. Thank you.

    Reply
    • October 10, 2022 at 2:22 pm
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      Hahaha the Gate stuff is just hilarious to us and we’ll turn anything controversial into a Gate. It is dumb but also amusing to us. The media coverage looks to be growing already, but that’s the type of thing you want a post-game interview with someone willing to ask hard questions. And thanks Jim!

      Reply
  • October 10, 2022 at 11:42 am
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    LW screaming: “I’ve been in 50 professional tournaments. But could you stop doing a perfectly legal move and give me a ball that I can hit easily to win a point in this competition for money? And don’t even THINK of targeting me or doing an Ernie on me!”

    Reply
    • December 2, 2022 at 6:04 pm
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      It’s amusing when the unimaginative pile on and want a “me too” feeling of cheaply purchased virtue. Hey, I have an idea! For an ‘equitable’ comparison, try hitting a ball with a spotlight shining in your eyes. Then you will have at least SOME background with which to make your inane comments about Leigh Waters.

      Reply
    • October 10, 2022 at 2:04 pm
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      Denise, will this issue be mute next year? I heard rules change will have the ref correct you (without asking) if you are in the wrong position or wrong role. Haven’t actually seen the proposed rule wording.

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      • October 12, 2022 at 9:40 am
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        I honestly don’t much about that particular rule; I bring it up as an example that there’s no principled objection to players getting angry and speaking up about opponents’ legal behavior. If we personally wouldn’t get upset, then the person who does is “flipping out”, but if we personally would get angry, then we see it as a totally normal reaction to have…

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    • October 10, 2022 at 2:24 pm
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      I don’t think he was completely in the wrong, but he was definitely wrong for being that upset. Can’t let something like that bother you to the point you lose your mind mid match. However, I know if another team was doing that to me i’d be pissed, especially if one of the guys is wearing the same color as the ball purposely (Jerry is known for that apparently)

      Reply
    • October 10, 2022 at 2:57 pm
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      Neil is an antic heavy misogynist. A lot to be annoyed with when he’s on court.

      Reply
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  • October 11, 2022 at 4:10 am
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    Leigh Waters is riding on the coattails of her daughter. I don’t blame her, but she doesn’t do squat without her daughter covering her.

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    • December 2, 2022 at 6:11 pm
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      What kind of person makes a nasty comment like this? I would bet a person with low talent and high envy. To say that Leigh Waters “doesn’t do squat without her daughter covering her” is a laughable lie and a comment no one with any self respect would make. Your bad manners are exceeded only by your bad manners.

      Reply
  • October 13, 2022 at 3:39 am
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    Our pickleball club plays on windy, cracked east-west oriented public courts. We switch sides after every 5th point. This balances things out and also keeps lobbing into the sun in check with the pickleball equivalent of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) ……………………………MAL – Mutual Assured Lobbing

    Reply
    • December 2, 2022 at 6:13 pm
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      It sounds like you have integrity, unlike most of the petty commenters here who are looking for a feeling of superiority by making rude and envious comments.

      Reply

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