This will be probably be our last follow-up on the PPA’s handling of the Red Rock paddle challenges and we bring it up as a result of Travis Rettenmaier’s latest run of podcast appearances over the past couple of weeks, including on his own ‘Tennis Sucks’ podcast and the ‘It Feels Right’ podcast with Rob Nunnery and Adam Stone. When asked about his challenge of Tyson McGuffin’s now confirmed failed paddle from Red Rock, Rettenmaier said he was told by PPA Commissioner, Connor Pardoe, that there was no challenge. According to the head referee, Rettenmaier did not challenge McGuffin’s paddle during the match and, therefore, McGuffin’s singles results would not be voided from Red Rock.
It is one of the most perplexing explanations that we could have expected to come from the PPA. Travis said there was no chance he did not challenge the paddle. He questioned why he spent 30 minutes after the match in the referees tent discussing the paddle if he didn’t challenge it. To support Rettenmaier’s point, our biggest question is why the hell they sent McGuffin’s paddle too off-site testing if there wasn’t a challenge? The explanation is completely non-sensical and we focus on it not because of the what it means to the challenge itself, but what it means for the bigger picture.
Travis Rettenmaier was political in his comments about the PPA’s transparency, saying he appreciated Pardoe’s honesty about what transpired. We’ll say what Travis can’t say, though. We don’t believe Pardoe is being honest about what transpired. We don’t believe he and the PPA are doing anything other than sweeping this mess under the rug, which they have done an incredible job of. Seriously. Credit where credit is due. Suppressing information in 2023 is hard and the PPA has made it look like a walk in the park.
The information suppression from the PPA calls into question the PPA’s entire paddle testing process. The PPA proudly posted on social media after their North Carolina event that all paddles tested “fell within legal limitations.” But how can we trust any of this? The PPA is clearly capable of providing information about paddle testing as they proclaim that all paddles were legal, but they couldn’t be bothered to make a simple statement about arguably their most prominent player and his illegal paddle.
Prior to the PPA posting about their 100% paddle test pass rate, we had received reliable information that Salome Devidze had paddles taken out of competition in North Carolina. You can understand why it was a surprise for us to see the PPA announce their 138 for 138 player success rate following that event. This past weekend, there was another situation involving, you guessed it, Salome Devidze, in her singles match against Mary Brascia during the Atlanta Open. In that match, the referee inspected Devidze’s paddle without prompting from anyone. From what we have heard, the paddle was pulled to be tested, it failed and Devidze played the remainder of the match with a different paddle instead of being disqualified. Huh?
Piecing together the circumstantial evidence on the failed Gamma paddle for Sarah Ansboury and how public the PPA was in their approach with that situation, it appears more like a targeted, hit job than ever. Gamma is not a PPA sponsor in 2023, but they were a sponsor in 2022, including being the official paddle of the North Carolina Open and Takeya Showcase. Although a contracted player, Sarah Ansboury has not been friends with the PPA in the past nor does she have the star power to affect their brand. Of course, Selkirk continues to be a major sponsor of the PPA Tour.
The Ansboury situation feels as if we are in Goodfellas or the Godfather. You mess with the family and this is what can happen. The PPA is smart and calculated in their approach by feigning to the public that they are bringing integrity and a level playing field to the sport when the reality is that they are going to do business as they always have.
Why are players so fearful to step up and discuss this Tyson McGuffin situation? The most vocal players in the sport have been silenced without the PPA having to say a word to them. The PPA’s lack of action against McGuffin is worth 1000 threatening words.
Other than the Salome Devidze information, the thoughts expressed by us here is generally speculation. As is often the case for us, this is educated speculation. However, if true, removing some of Devidze’s paddles from competition followed by an announcement of perfect paddle testing and then a failed test without a DQ is a scary thought. On the surface, there is enough of a whiff of transparency to make the general public believe the right steps are being taken. Under the surface, though, it is an ongoing pattern of deception to the public.
The PPA does not deserve the benefit of the doubt. Instead of denying or addressing any of their decisions, they are ignoring it and expect it will go away. This has already happened in this paddle debacle when we hear from Travis Rettenmaier that the PPA apparently sent Tyson McGuffin’s paddle for off-site testing despite no challenge having occurred. It is easily forgotten that Christa Gecheva’s paddle was challenged by Lucy Kovalova in Red Rock. We have it on good information that Gecheva’s paddle failed off-site testing but we also have it on good information that Gecheva was told by the PPA that her paddle passed and she had nothing to worry about.
The multiple instances of conflicting information about recent PPA paddle testing is more than concerning because it casts doubt over the entire process that the PPA has implemented in this short period of time. We have heard from multiple sources that the ultrasound testing they are using on-site is not reliable. Following the Ansboury press attack by the PPA, in hindsight, it did not make sense when Carl Schmits said that the ultrasonic test is binary, in that it either passes or fails without question.* We also have heard that the PPA refused to return and subsequently destroyed Ansboury’s failed paddle in question, which means there would be no possibility for independent, third party testing, or testing by Gamma. From a transparency perspective, this is more than problematic, if true. Given all the information that is coming out about paddles, including the testing that MLP is spearheading, it appears the PPA’s process is not as straightforward as they want you to believe it is.
When you think about concerning actions, we can’t ignore that the PPA was apparently upset with The Dink for comments that SoCal Hard Eights part-owner, Tim Parks, made about the PPA in his appearance on The Dink’s PicklePod with Thomas Shields and Zane Navratil. It upset the PPA enough that they told The Dink they could no longer post PPA content on their platforms due to Parks’ podcast appearance. While that threat must have been resolved because The Dink has been posting PPA content recently, to put it bluntly, it is communist dictatorship-like behavior from the PPA to threaten The Dink in this heavy-handed manner over some mildly negative comments expressed by an individual not even associated with The Dink.
For anyone who thought Commissioner Pardoe was joking in the introduction of his own PicklePod appearance earlier this year, you might want to think again:
The PPA still has not published any paddle testing guidelines since May of 2022, which is when they first implemented surface roughness testing. Looking back, it is borderline shocking the PPA published any written standards for the grit testing last year and it highlights how glaring of an issue it is that they haven’t done so with deflection testing. Instead, for deflection testing, they have applied an arbitrary measurement using an unreliable test without any explanation of what the measurement unit is, how the measurement threshold was derived or how the test even works beyond a surface level description. They have had plenty of time to create a temporary set of clear, written standards and are obviously choosing not to do so.
Paddle testing is hard. The PPA has brought some form of testing to their tournaments in a duct tape fix type of manner without giving any caution that the testing is far from perfect. It is a stark contrast to the PPL Report published by MLP that thoroughly explains their testing process, the results and what further testing is needed to ensure greater reliability in paddle testing. At this point in time, the PPA’s new paddle testing policy should not be commended. It is fraught with a lack of transparency, reliability and inconsistency in its implementation.
Are referees supposed to be able to inspect a player’s paddle in the middle of the match without a challenge? Why wasn’t Devidze defaulted if her paddle failed on-site testing? We don’t know because there is no policy nor is there any communication to the public about paddle testing. The fact that Rettenmaier had to come out publicly to let us know the PPA’s explanation on Tyson McGuffin’s illegal paddle is a huge issue.
It continues to be a used car dealer vibe (get it?) from the PPA as we get the Cadillac sales pitch on a 2006 Toyota Corolla. If the public isn’t in this head space already, there should be buyer beware attached to anything that is presented by the PPA. The paddle testing fiasco is not the first instance where there is a very strong suggestion of underhanded conduct on their end, and there’s no reason for us to expect it to be the last.
*this article was edited to correct the term of the PPA’s testing to ultrasonic, not ultrasound.
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