We published our Premier level group draw preview late last night so today we’re hitting you up with our Challenger group preview. Let’s get to it!
Group A – Miami Pickleball Club, AZ Drive, Utah Black Diamonds, Columbus Pickleball Club
This group appears to consist of 3 contenders and 1 dud. AZ Drive are not good. They dropped Wes Burrows for John Cincola and Genie Erokinha is for the injured Heather Nobler, they still have Sarah Ansboury and Andreas Siljestrom. The rest of this group is frisky.
Miami picked up Wes Burrows for Jeff Warnick (who will still be around to “coach”), and that could end up being an improvement on paper, even if we didn’t like the move. It makes them a better Dreambreaker team and should be at least neutral in doubles. Utah is just solid and steady with the 4 veterans on their team, though it should be mentioned that Michelle Esquivel has only played one tournament since February this year. Columbus essentially moved Milan Rane for Rianna Valdes, which is a higher variance move but carries with it some potential for upside.
We have Miami and Utah making it out of this group, but don’t be surprised to see Columbus find one of those 2 coveted spots.
Group B – Chicago Slice, Atlanta Bouncers, Texas Ranchers, Bay Area Breakers
This might be the toughest overall group, but there are two clear top teams in the Chicago Slice and Bay Area Breakers. The Slice have made the semi-finals both times out and with Garnett and Ackerman continuing to improve, they are one of the better teams in the whole tournament. Bay Area has won 2 events so far and they might have improved. Rachel Summers is unavailable for event 3 and they picked up Vivian Glozman, who might allow the Breakers to hit through most Challenger women’s teams.
Atlanta was able to trade Christine Trifunovic for Milan Rane and then they made the odd move of dropping Ben Newell for Phillip Locklear. It’s unclear if the Locklear for Newell move is a big drop-off so this is the wild card considering Rane for Trifunovic is a clear upgrade. It is hard to see how this roster as constructed is capable of beating Bay Area or Chicago.
The Ranchers are an interesting team as they dropped Genie Erokhina for Tina Pisnik. This is a bad Dreambreaker team as not one of their players is younger than their age 39 year in pickleball. Pisnik has been playing well, but it will probably end up being a big miss for every team that passed on taking Glozman, other than possibly Columbus. The Ranchers won’t be an easy team to play in doubles, but if they can’t find a way to get 3 wins in a match it could be major trouble for them. It’s also concerning that Scott Doerner hasn’t played a pro tournament in almost two months.
Group C – Orlando Squeeze, Dallas Pickleball Club, D.C. Pickleball Team, Brooklyn Aces
It seems Dallas is the beneficiary of the easiest group in Challenger. Jill Braverman somehow found their way to one of the two teams PPA stalwart, Dave Fleming, is the GM of and they should be able to cruise in this group. Despite the loss of Brandon French to injury, this team should be in the playoffs. Orlando is a middling team that doesn’t have the horses to truly contend with the big dogs in Challenger. It appears Judit Castillo’s doubles game might be quite far behind her singles game, which could pose more problems for Sam Querrey’s D.C. team. And the Brooklyn Aces are banking on two inexperienced females and arguably two better as right side men’s players to lead them to a playoff appearance. This group is wide open for a 2nd team to take advantage and find themselves in the playoffs.
Agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments below or email us at email@example.com. Follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook too!