With all the pro pickleball adjacent news, we had a major drop of player news from Leigh Waters herself on Monday. Through her social media, Leigh Waters let the world know that she will be out for the entire 2023 season with a torn ACL. It’s a brutal injury for Leigh, who will now miss an entire year of playing pickleball with her daughter, Anna Leigh. Leigh injured her knee while played mixed doubles at Nationals about two and a half weeks ago.
The injury to Leigh was overshadowed by the domino effect of the partnership drama that ensued with Catherine Parenteau dropping Allyce Jones. If it wasn’t for the partnership drama, we probably would have been talking more about the possible long-term impact of what appeared to be a devastating injury to Leigh. In today’s medical climate, a torn ACL is not a death sentence the way it was many years ago, but the future of the elder Waters’ pickleball career will have to be a question mark going forward.
As it did at Nationals, the injury to Mama Waters opens the door for Anna Leigh partnerships in a way that we could only speculate about previously. So, who will Anna Leigh partner with in 2023?
The obvious answer is Catherine Parenteau. When all the Partner-Gate stuff went down at Nationals, it came out that Parenteau did not have a partner secured for 2023 because no one wanted to commit to her. Parenteau noted in her apology that there had already been discussions of she and Anna Leigh partnering together in the future prior to Nationals. Unless something changed in the past couple of weeks, we have to think that she is available should Anna Leigh want to go down that route. It would be quite something if Parenteau’s poor treatment of past partners over the years put in her in the position to be 100% available for Anna Leigh.
The complexity of this dilemma for Anna Leigh is that most of the best women outside of Anna Leigh likely have their 2023 partnerships locked in at this point, whether it is one partner or multiple partners. After all that happened with Catherine Parenteau, are other top players going to open the lines of communication with Anna Leigh or will Team Waters reach out to other top players about a potential 2023 partnership? Are players willing to risk their reputation for the opportunity of playing with the undisputed number 1 female in the world? With all the flux of the PPA vs. APP tour stuff, we also don’t know whether new options will be made available if certain players decide to make the switch to the PPA.
The other question mark is whether Anna Leigh wants to commit to any single player for an entire year. Catherine Parenteau is one of the best out there, but it is worth asking whether she has mostly plateaued as a player. We already saw what Anna Bright and Parris Todd have done in a short period of time to this fast changing sport. There are inevitably going to be new female stars *cough* *Etta Wright* *cough*. Whether it is Parenteau or someone else, we also have seen first-hand evidence in 2022 the difficulty of navigating both the on and off-court side of a year-long partnership.
These considerations may matter less for Anna Leigh, who will probably win with anybody she plays with. Nevertheless, there is still a lot that will go into this decision for the teenager and her entire team.
It is also worth noting, that we have luckily seen few injuries of this magnitude in pro pickleball’s short existence. Lots of players are often playing through injuries, but there have been relatively few injuries that have knocked the top players out for a significant period of time. Steve Deakin, pops to mind as a player who missed a year due to injury and the “It Feels Right” boys, Adam Stone and Rob Nunnery have seldom felt right this year, but overall there have been a relatively low number of serious injuries.
Unfortunately, we have to wonder whether we may be set to see an uptick in serious injuries in pro pickleball. With the grind of the schedule only set to increase next year and with many players now having the cumulative effect of a few years of steady grinding, you have to think the risk of serious injury will go up between the fatigue and general wear and tear. We hope it is not the case, but it seems likely to be a reality unless something changes with the players scheduling, which is unlikely to change at this point due to their obligations to meet financial incentives.
It’s truly a shame that an injury will deprive the Waters of their opportunity to stay on top of the pickleball world as a mother-daughter for another year. The reality, though, is that Anna Leigh will have to move on, and her choice of partner(s) has the potential to define the female pickleball landscape in 2023.
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