We had intended to do a US Open Fantasy Draft Preview but life got in the way so we’re going to do a standard preview for the pro doubles events. One thing we wanted to highlight beyond results is the ongoing use of World Pickleball Rankings (WPR) for seeding. Our understanding is that WPR has stopped maintaining their website and are not inputting results for 2023. We get after the PPA for their lack of transparency but this is no different, WPR cannot be used to seed the draws at any pro event if there is not public clarity about how they work. It’s like doing the draft lottery in a backroom without anyone there and then releasing the results expecting us all to trust it is correct. It’s another strike for the US Open as the lack of transparency is unacceptable for WPR (Update: To clarify, the rankings are shared on the PT US Open page, but that is the only public information regarding 2023 WPR)
In terms of some early US Open results, the most interesting matches involved Parris Todd. She staved off a number of match points in a 15-13 third game gold medal win against Judit Castillo Gargallo, who continues to impress, particularly with her coverage at the kitchen line. That was a heck of a match. We also really enjoy the pro split age events. They are weird and weird is fun. Two virtual unknowns, Sheri Courter and Mari Humberg, took gold against the heavily favored Parris Todd/Beth Bellamy, and the story of the match was how good the still 49-year-old Sheri Courter was. Courter, a lefty, may have been the better player to #2 overall National Pickleball League draft selection, Beth Bellamy, and played so well that her younger partner was targeted as the match went along. Courter was just as surprised as everyone else by what was happening after game 1 but she and Humberg looked left for dead going down 11-1 and 9-2 before coming back to win game 3, 11-9. Possibly the most shocking result of 2023.
Let’s get into our preview for the remainder of the US Open.
Men’s Pro Doubles
(1) Andrei Daescu / Kyle Yates – 2023 is a watered-down pro version of what has historically been one of the majors in pickleball. Yates/Daescu have not been completely dominant but they are the most consistent team out there along with the most experience. They do not have the benefit of a double elimination APP format so they can’t afford any letdowns in this event.
(2) Hunter Johnson / Yates Johnson – The Johnson brothers remain somewhat enigmatic but their talent may be too much for most of these teams. They have been getting better results together and we expect in this field they will be playing for gold, with a real shot to win gold, assuming they do not end up on the same side of the bracket as Yates/Daescu.
(3) Brendon Long / CJ Klinger – This spot came down to two teams but we go with who is playing the best on tour. Obviously, that man is Brendon Long, who has gotten exponentially more press in the last 2 weeks than he has for his entire career. Couple that with CJ Klinger’s solid showing at MLP Daytona and you have a righty/lefty combo that won’t be fun for opponents to see.
In the Mix
Ryler DeHeart / Rob Nunnery – Nunnery and DeHeart have both been playing solid pickleball lately, and they were right there to find a podium at the APP Mesa, but they couldn’t quite climb the hill against Pesa Teoni/Daescu. Nunnery is still too trigger happy despite his array of weapons and DeHeart may still lack the weaponry needed at the highest level of pickleball. They are going to be a tough out regardless.
Austin Gridley / Mario Barrientos – Austin Gridley! Where ya been? Gridley is not touring all that much lately but these two together are a solid, funky duo. The upside may be lacking but they should have a shot at a podium.
Dark Horse Teams
Sam Querrey / Wes Burrows; Brandon Hubschman / Jake Kusmider; Jason Bock / Erik Rosner
Sam Querrey and Wes Burrows are a threat in this draw. Querrey is improving at a pace that is not fully snails and, while it is hard to envision this team putting together a full day, this is a squad poised to bring the upsets. Hubschman is a solid player at the pro level and Kusmider has talent to match. Jason Bock and Erik Rosner are two guys with talent that are also going to have trouble stringing together a full day, but it is another team that won’t be a treat to face-off against for opponents.
Women’s Pro Doubles
(1) Parris Todd / Simone Jardim – It wouldn’t be Courter/Humberg over Bellamy/Todd shocking, but if these two don’t win in this field it will be pretty shocking.
(2) Shelby Bates / Susannah Barr – Shelby Bates continues to improve and this squad will pack the power with Susannah Barr playing as the best version of herself right now. The question is whether they will be susceptible to an inconsistent match between the two of them. If they can avoid that, they’ll be right there.
(3) Bobbi Oshiro / Megan Fudge – Megan Fudge had a good silver medal in Mesa with Susannah Barr at her latest event. Bobbi Oshiro is playing well but her consistency isn’t always there for a full day despite her continued improvement. Nevertheless, they should be as steady a team as it gets in this field and also should have enough pop to find the podium.
In the Mix
Alix Truong/Milan Rane – This is a solid, if unspectacular, duo going into the US Open. We could see them finishing anywhere from a bronze to well outside the podium hunt.
Meredith Laughlin / Heather Nobler – These two have played a number of events together and Nobler showed she can hang at a higher level in her first foray for AZ Drive at MLP. It is possible Laughlin is the better player of this partnership so don’t be surprised if they are playing for a medal.
Lee Whitwell / Saloime Devidze; Tina Pisnik / Tammy Emmrich; Mari Humberg/Martina Frantova; Riley Bohnert/Ryann Foster
Salome Devidze is the definition of a singles specialist but the racquet talent together with Lee Whitwell puts the line call queen in contention for this draw. Tina Pisnik and Tammy Emmrich are high level former tennis players working to make their transition to higher level pickleball. Mari Humberg won the women’s pro split age and Frantova is the girlfriend of Pablo Tellez, which makes them a team to watch. Riley Bohnert/Ryann Foster are players both on the slow rise that could get some wins.
Mixed Pro Doubles
(1) Simone Jardim / Kyle Yates – The band is back together! This team was the dominant mixed partnership in pro pickleball until Simone went with Ben Johns after 2019 Nationals. Yates’ mixed game is a question mark as is the overall pop this team has together in 2023, but their experience is unmatched.
(2) Parris Todd / Hunter Johnson – They lost to Susannah Barr/Andrei Daescu and nothing about the early US Open doubles events has been overly encouraging for these two separately. However, their power and familiarity together make them the 2nd best team in this US Open field.
(3) Susannah Barr / Rob Nunnery – This will be a big test for Rob Nunnery. Susannah Barr’s early struggles in mixed to start the year came with a rusty Nunnery. Mixed has never been Nunnery’s best event, but anything less than a podium will be a major disappointment considering Barr got a bronze at the last PPA and a gold at the last APP in mixed with different partners. Pressure is on.
In the Mix
Milan Rane / Brendon Long – The bronze medal is up for grabs, which leaves us with the best guy in the field in the mix for another podium at the US Open.
Alix Truong / Yates Johnson – We are still wondering if Yates Johnson is more theoretical than actual talent when he’s not playing with his brother. We’ll see how this goes.
Riley Bohnert / Joey Farias; Megan Fudge / Ryler DeHeart; Meredith Laughlin / William Sobek; Lee Whitwell / Eden Lica
Joey Farias is still a shot maker so when you combine that ability with a younger, skilled player, you have a team that could make some noise. Megan Fudge and Ryler DeHeart have not worked that well as a pair together, but they are both steady forces on the same side of the net. William Sobek has been a tour de force recently, including in singles at the US Open before falling victim to cramping against Yates Johnson. Sobek and Laughlin will be an interesting team that has a little history together. Lee Whitwell and Eden Lica are players more on the decline of their pickleball careers as Lica, in particular, is what he is at this point.
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