The APP’s third tour event, the $35K Cincinnati Open presented by Head Pickleball, is taking place at the Lefferson Park in Middletown, Ohio. We’re going to have two separate previews for the pros and the senior pros. The Cincinnati Open is hosted by rising star Jay Devilliers and veteran stalwart Michelle Esquivel. This is the first major pro event since the US Open. While Devilliers is fresh off of some big wins and devastating losses at the US Open, Esquivel strained her calf right before the Open and was unable to play.
For pickleball nerds like us, tournaments like the Cincinnati Open are sometimes more fascinating than other events because there is less predictability. There is a lot of depth in this field but without some of the very top players out there, predicting podiums can actually be a more enjoyable exercise. Sometimes it’s more fun to watch Fernando Verdasco play Sam Querrey (sorry for the dated reference, we don’t watch much tennis anymore).
Here is the Pro schedule for the weekend:
- Friday, May 14th – Mixed Pro Doubles (8:00 am EST)
- Saturday, May 15th – Men’s Pro Doubles (8:00 am EST) and Women’s Pro Doubles (11:30 am EST)
- Sunday, May 16th – Men’s Pro Singles (8:00 am EST) and Women’s Pro Singles (12:00 pm EST)
Women’s Pro Doubles – May 15th, 11:30 am EST
- Corrine Carr / Andrea Koop – An experienced team. They have picked up a bronze and silver at the first two APP stops this year, and you can bet they want a gold. We think they will get it this weekend.
- Lea Jansen / Lauren Stratman – This is an up and coming team that is constantly improving. Is this the week that they finally break through and take gold?
- Regina Franco / Sarah Ansboury – Regina and Sarah, have good chemistry together and are always just a very solid team who are a tough out for anybody.
The team to watch out for is the defending tournament champions, Maggie Remynse and Michelle Esqivel, who pulled out a big victory over Callie Smith and Remynse’s sister, Andrea Koop in the gold medal last year. With both players coming off of injuries we weren’t able to put them on the podium, but if they are both healthy don’t be surprised to see them contending again.
Men’s Pro Doubles – May 15th, 8:00 am EST
- Jay Devilliers / Patrick Smith – This is a team on the rise, they play a bunch together and were only a few points away from beating the Johns brothers at the US Open.
- Rob Cassidy / Rob Nunnery – Two guys with very quick hands at the net. They had a deep run at the US Open together and we expect this is going to carry over to strong results in Cincinnati.
- Altaf Merchant / Zane Navratil – Merchant and Navratil have good chemistry together and have shown they can get results. They haven’t been able to replicate their success of last year yet but expect them on the podium this time around. What we can guarantee is a tucked in shirt, jacked up Merchinator.
There are probably four other teams who could realistically find a podium in this field. That number would be five if Adam Stone can find a replacement for the injured Steve Deakin. Young/Fajardo and Frazier/Koller are two new partnerships of talented players who could surprise some people. Although we don’t see Goldberg/Johnson or Hewett/Cincola medaling, they have the talent for an upset win or two.
Mixed Pro Doubles – May 14th, 8:00 am EST
- Corrine Carr / Adam Stone – When Carr and Stone last paired up on the court at the APP’s first stop of the year in Punta Gorda they took the gold medal in convincing fashion without dropping a game all day.
- Lauren Stratman / Patrick Smith – Stratman and Smith having been playing together a fair amount this year and seem to have good chemistry.
- Andrea Koop / Zane Navratil – A strong team that may have the highest ceiling of any team in this field, but also have a lower floor than our other podium picks. Only Koop’s third tournament of 2021.
This is a deep bracket going 8 or 9 teams deep with potential medalists. Jay Devilliers and Regina Franco are a very strong team. Rafa Hewett and Sarah Ansboury had a big run in Delray finishing fourth and will be looking to keep that momentum going. Lea Jansen and JW Johnson have plenty of upside as well. If Michelle Esquivel is healthy, she and Rob Nunnery will be right in the mix.
Men’s Pro Singles – May 16th, 8:00 am EST
- Zane Navratil – Coming off of a disappointing US Open, we expect Zane to rebound and take gold here. One thing to watch for with Navratil is if he can keep up his results as more players see his serve and get more accustomed to it.
- Jay Devilliers – Devilliers’ singles performance is a bit inconsistent, but in this field we expect to see him in the gold medal match. He has handled Zane’s serve as well or better than anyone this year so it would not be a shock to see him grab a gold.
- Rob Nunnery – Nunnery seldom plays singles, but his results when he does have been very solid. If he is healthy, look for him to reach his first singles podium.
This is a pretty deep singles field. We expect that AJ Koller and John Cincola will be playing late into the day and battling for podium spots. Also, Ryan Sherry who has been injured is in the field and if he is playing and healthy (hamstrings are a tough deal), it would not be a surprise to see him on the podium.
Women’s Pro Singles – May 16th, 12:00 pm EST
- Lea Jansen – the no doubt favorite after her US Open silver medal and Esquivel coming off of a calf strain. It would be borderline shocking to see her come away with anything other than gold.
- Michelle Esquivel – She is a very cautious #2 seed for us. Muscle strains/pulls are not good for the singles grind.
- Andrea Koop – Koop is not known for being a singles player but it is not a deep singles field for the women. Her talent should carry her to a podium.
Not a lot of depth in this singles field for the women. Cooper is older but she has robust tennis background and is starting to play more. We have not seen Kawamoto play any singles but you have to take note of someone who played division one tennis at the University of Dayton.
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