The Riley Newman and Anna Bright partnership is done. The much hyped duo, who came away with 1 gold, 1 bronze and 1 4th place finish in 3 tournaments, are no longer partnering for the rest of the year. We have now heard from multiple sources that Anna Bright was the one that initiated the breakup and the pair are not playing for the PPA Florida Open event coming up this week. Bright will be partnered with Ignatowich for that Florida event and it sounds like she is planning to play the rest of the year with James Ignatowich, who is coming off the best weekend of his pro career with 2 gold medals at the PPA Minnesota.
This is a shocking development as Newman/Bright teamed up to be able to take down Ben Johns/Anna Leigh Waters, and we didn’t even get to see that matchup once. We were quite skeptical when some people in our comments were concerned about the body language between Bright and Newman. Our lack of skepticism came as a result of Riley Newman being like that with all of his partners, including his sister. Going into a partnership, it should be well known that Riley Newman is not Mr. Communication or Positivity on the court during matches and in timeouts.*
Is it possible the sub-par early results could have contributed to the change? It would seem rash to pull the plug on a partnership so early in the year when there’s so much potential for growth. Riley Newman is the 1st or 2nd best mixed player in the world, and Anna Bright has become arguably the #2 women’s player in the world – although where she ranks as a mixed female is more up for debate.
The other factor to this that has to be discussed is the personal relationship between Anna Bright and James Ignatowich. They are dating. They have had a number of battles against each other in mixed with Bright coming out on the better end of those, except for the most recent of those in Minnesota where Ignatowich won 12-10 in the third.
This is the second time from an optics standpoint that the personal relationship between Bright and Ignatowich has had a significant impact in the pro pickleball world. The first time was when Ignatowich was picked up by the Ranchers after the first MLP event in 2022 and the Ranchers went onto win the title in Newport. Ranchers owner, Tim Klitch, took full responsibility publicly for the Ignatowich pickup but we can’t believe their personal relationship didn’t impact the decision. This time, Bright/Ignatowich will team up together in tournaments.
We have alluded to it many times, including in our last set of takeaways about Stratman/Arnold, but it is a dangerous move to put your professional eggs in the basket of your personal life partner. Some are able to do it, but most are not. It is always possible that this is the best thing for their relationship, but these are two people in their early 20s intermingling their personal and professional lives.
Of course, we are only speculating on factors that are out there for anyone in the public to speculate on. We don’t know which factors or how much any of these factors contributed to the partnership change for Anna Bright. Only Bright and Ignatowich will be able to say for sure what led to the change. We have to be careful speculating on the mindset of pros when it comes to personal decisions like this, but that is also what we’re here to do.
It will definitely be interesting to monitor what Newman does with his mixed partnerships. His decisions will shape many of the partnerships that we see on the pro tour and those Sunday spots are going to be more up for grabs than ever as a result of this shake up. He has Parris Todd for this upcoming Florida PPA but what he decides to do/who he can get to partner with him will be one of the more intriguing storylines to monitor.
We also have to mention the aspect of breaking up a partnership so early in the year. This is the first instance of this for Bright and we know lots of this kind of stuff goes on behind the scenes, but we would be setting a double standard to go after Parenteau for her history of partnership decisions without pointing out that this instance is not much different in a vacuum – the history of poor partner treatment is a big factor the Parenteau-Jones situation too.
In any event, Bright’s decision has ripple effects beyond Riley Newman and the partners of James Ignatowich, as it will leave many players scrambling for partners when they otherwise thought they were secure. At the end of the day, should that matter in pro pickleball and is this kind of stuff going to happen more as higher stakes come into the sport? Reasonable minds can differ on this, but we have made our position quite clear in the past if this kind of stuff becomes a pattern.
On the whole, we can’t help but see this as an impulsive, emotional decision in response to a less than ideal start to the year. This is obviously a personal decision and what each person values as important is going to be very different. Nevertheless, whether the decision was made on a personal or professional basis, or some combination of the two, we can’t help but question the logic that went into the final choice.
*This post has been edited to clarify that reference to Riley’s communication “on and off the court” was not intended to refer to Riley as a person outside of pickleball. It was merely intended as a reference to his lack of communication during timeouts, between games etc. during the course of a match.
Agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, and also make sure you subscribe to our newsletter that will be sent right to your inbox weekly!