APP Tour Cincinnati Open Preview – Senior Pro

Dan Granot should be seeing more podiums this weekend in Cincinnati

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 Senior Pro schedule for the weekend:

  • Friday, May 14th – Mixed Senior Pro Doubles (10:30 am EST)
  • Saturday, May 15th – Men’s Senior Pro Doubles (9:00 am EST) and Women’s Senior Pro Doubles (10:30 am EST)
  • Sunday, May 16th – Men’s Senior Pro Singles (8:00 am EST) and Women’s Senior Pro Singles (10:15 am EST)

Men’s Senior Pro Doubles – May 15th, 9:00am EST

  1. Dan Granot / Dave Fleming – Granot had a lights out US Open and when you put him beside Fleming you have a strong pair. 
  2. Scott Fliegelman / Brent Waiwaiole – These are two guys who don’t necessarily get a lot of podiums, but they definitely get their wins at the senior pro level. Waiwaiole is not playing with his brother but the results are quite strong on his side.
  3. Scott Tingley / Bob White – Tingley played well at the played well in Delray but his results have been a little bit scattered. This pairing played Granot and Morariu to 3 sets not long ago too.

This bracket lost who we would have favored as the gold medal team in John Sperling and Mircea Morariu after Morariu dropped out. Mark Palus and Tom Decaprio have had some limited success as well Marius Mitrofan.

Women’s Senior Pro Doubles – May 15th, 10:30 am EST

  1. Helen Wilhelm / Tammy Patys – This Texas duo is a strong team, who has put up some impressive results in the past. The one thing that gives us pause with this pick is that this is Patys’s first tournament since she and Wilhelm took bronze at the PPA Championship in October last year.
  2. Eva Welsher/Linda Thompson – Coming off a bronze medal at the US Open, both of these women are playing well right now, and we definitely expect to see this team on the podium. It is just a question of where.
  3. Julie Johnson / Leslie Bernard – Bernard is always a threat for the podium in Senior’s Women Doubles and Julie Johnson is having a lot of success this year in her first year playing at the senior pro level.

Another team to keep an eye on is, Christine Barksdale and Jane Paulson, who should be a real threat to make the podium in this field. There are few athletes in pickleball as accomplished, in another sport, as Sheri Steinhauer, who is a two time major winner on the LPGA tour. Steinhauer will be teaming up with Jean Halahan this weekend.

Mixed Senior Pro Doubles – May 14th, 10:30 am EST

  1. Eva Welsher / Dan Granot – Welsher and Granot are both coming off impressive US Open performances and we expect them both to keep that momentum going with a gold here in mixed doubles.
  2. Helen Wilhelm / Rick Witsken – this team is coming off a bronze at the US Open and a silver at Delray, so they are certainly no strangers to the podium.
  3. Linda Thompson / John Sperling – John Sperling is a podium master. Thompson doesn’t have a lot of recent podiums,  but she is coming off a bronze in women’s senior pro doubles at the US Open.

Women’s Senior Pro Singles – May 16th, 10:15 am EST

  1. Julie Johnson – She moves well and has won multiple senior pro events this year. She has had some close victories but you have to favor her in this field. 
  2. Tammy Patys – This is purely a hunch based on her very strong doubles game. She has big wins on the doubles side in both women’s and mixed.
  3. Jenny Marcos – Marcos won the senior division at the Texas Open last year and she has tight losses to Cammy MacGergor and Julie Johnson

It’s not a deep field for the senior pro women in singles and we don’t expect anyone outside of these three will be on the podium. This podium could definitely look different than 1, 2, and 3 as we have outlined here though.

Men’s Senior Pro Singles – May 16th, 8:00 am EST

  1. Rick Witsken – Witsken has burst onto the senior pro scene in his first year of eligibility. Whenever someone is getting wins that late into their 40s at the pro level, the senior pro results are almost inevitable.
  2. Dan Granot – Granot is not a top end singles player but he has wins over both Scott More and Mircea Morariu this year. In this field, he’s the clear #2. 
  3. Mark Palus – This could be reaching a bit but there is no doubt upside with Palus. You always like those tennis guys in singles as it translates a lot quicker than doubles. Palus just started playing tournaments in 2021 but he had wins over Witsken, Granot and Fliegelman at the US Open.

Morariu dropping out opens the podium door to a number of players. Fleming and Fliegelman are two doubles guys who could crack the podium. Fleming, in particular, does not play much singles these days. Todd White had a bronze at Simone’s PPA this past year as well.

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