This is our inaugural post and we figured that we would do it up big for our first set of posts. This is part 1 of our three part full blown Minto US Open preview. We have tasked ourselves with each tackling half of the brackets we are previewing. Whether you are a pickleball die hard or a newbie to the world of professional pickleball, this preview should give you all you need to know heading into the first of the three major tournaments this year.
Men’s Pro Doubles by Slim
- Ben Johns / Colin Johns – If Ben Johns is breathing you have to make him the favorite in any event he is playing. If not for a rough weekend at the Florida Grand Slam for Colin in particular earlier this year, this might seem like a total inevitability, and the reality is if Colin continues to show the form he has the last couple of tournaments, no team can come close to catching the Johns brothers.
- Riley Newman / Tyson McGuffin – This team has not quite been able to catch their magic from last year where they were a consistent presence on the medal stand, but they had a good weekend last weekend in Newport and you can count on them to battle all day. Though one does wonder if both players may be tiring of the partnership?
- Dekel Bar / Adam Stone – Dekel seems to be making a leap this year into that elite status in doubles, and that’s why this team get the nod over the first couple of teams in the podium chasers list. I have wondered this year, if Adam Stone isn’t trying to do a little too much and perhaps trying to be too alpha in his partnerships? This is an old partnership, but is Adam alright with accepting a lesser role now? If he is, I expect this team to be on the podium.
- Patrick Smith / Jay Devilliers – This team has made the leap this year, that many expected would happen, to consistent podium threat. Nobody would be surprised to see these two on the podium. I do feel that both players need a little more consistency in their games to reach that truly elite status. They both miss a few shots that the true elites in the game don’t and some days that’s the difference.
- DJ Young / Callan Dawson – How this team performs really comes down to which DJ shows up. Callan is one of the most consistent players on tour, but it is no secret that DJ’s mental game is one of the bigger wild cards on the tour. When DJ is fully engaged and on, he is one of the scariest players on tour, but sometimes he just seems to get into his own head. DJ has been much more consistent though when playing with Callan so I suspect we will see this team playing late into the day.
- Kyle Yates / Matt Wright – I considered leaving this team off of podium chasers, as I am just out on Yates as an elite player, at this point. However, a rejuvenated Matt Wright is too much of a threat to reach the podium, to leave off the list. If Kyle can sit on the right hand side and stay patient (as he did in his Ben Johns partnership days) and let Matt go to work with his elite weapons, this team could reach the podium, but don’t be surprised if this team has an earlier than expected exit.
- Steve Deakin / Dave Weinbach – This is a team fighting father time, and their opponents, but do not be shocked if their consistency and competitiveness carries them to a bronze here. They are two of the more competitive players out there. Side note, I expect we may see a record number of lobs against them for a match in Men’s Pro at some point in the day.
- Erik Lange / Matt Goebel – Calling two guys who have been on the podium in majors, dark horses might be a bit of a stretch, but as two guys who aren’t regularly on the tour they can be forgotten. If Goebel’s weapons, some of the best in the game, are on, this is a team that nobody wants to see and with their combined reach there aren’t many safe places to go.
- Tyler Loong / Spencer Smith – This has been a new partnership this year, and they have pulled off some big wins. This team relies on great hands and athleticism. I would love to see them add some bigger serves and a couple more weapons at the net to their game, if that happened, they would be a consistent podium presence.
Men’s Pro Split Age by Slim
- Ben Johns / Dayne Gingrich – Ben Johns is just too good, and putting him with a top 2 senior man, seems almost unfair. Don’t think too much more needs to be said.
- Steve Deakin / Dave Weinbach – I think Deakin and Weinbach could actually have a shot against Ben and Dayne if they really isolate and grind Dayne, but both of their past matches against Ben suggest they lack the discipline to do so. An advantage they have over Ben and Dayne as well is that they have actually played together before. These top two teams are clearly a cut above the rest of the field.
- Tyson McGuffin / John Sperling – Just two very solid players, and if any team could challenge the two teams above it’s this team.
- Dekel Bar/ Mills Miller – As I said above, I feel that Dekel is making a leap in doubles, and it wasn’t that long a go that Mills was going to battle in those men’s open brackets. He is a legend of the game for a reason.
- DJ Young / Steve Dawson – I would expect this team to have some good chemistry and Steve Dawson’s smooth and steady game should compliment DJ’s shot making.
- Collin Johns / Paul Olin – this team will be super tough, and I believe that the players have some familiarity with each other’s game.
- Rafa Hewett / Mircea Morariu – A real dark horse. Rafa, who has recently moved in with Tyson McGuffin, had a big run with Sarah Ansboury in Delray. One wonders if he might finally ready to break through and recognize that immense arm talent he holds. Morariu has shown himself to be a consistent threat in the senior men’s field. I feel like this team may be hungrier to prove themselves than some of the other more recognized names in this field.
- Adam Stone / Dave Fleming – A team that has played together before which I feel like is a big advantage in this new event, how far can that chemistry carry them?
Men’s Pro Singles by Gritty
- Ben Johns – Too good. The only thing that might stop him in singles is not being fresh but singles is the first pro event of the US Open so he should be fresh as a daisy.
- Zane Navratil – I think Zane has solidified himself in the top 3 for singles players. His serve, whether or not the Zane-Saw is available to him, creates a massive advantage for him. The serving gap will close as Zane has shown other players how important it is to serve well in singles. Nevertheless, Zane’s court coverage as well as his ability to pass from both sides (hint: this is important) makes him the number 2 seed in my eyes going into the US Open.
- Jay Devilliers – Wait, Tyson McGuffin not in the top 3? If you look at the results, Devilliers’ results are better than McGuffin’s. It’s a toss up between Jay and Zane for the number 2 seed. While Devilliers’ could still go for more on his serve, every other facet of his singles game is very good. He passes from both sides well and he has such good mobility considering his size. He also handles Zane’s serve better than anyone outside Ben Johns.
- Tyson McGuffin – It’s not a Kyle Yates fall from grace yet in singles but you could see this one coming towards the end of 2020. Tyson has gotten by for too long on his big-ish serve, forehand and court coverage. The problem for Tyson is the game of pickleball has gotten better but his singles game is basically the same. Until this year, McGuffin has never needed to hit a backhand groundstroke to beat anyone other than Ben Johns but it is his biggest failing as a player that he has not developed a consistent backhand pass. In 2021, the lack of a backhand has finally caught up to him. It doesn’t help that he’s getting older but considering the work he puts into his body I have to think the backhand is the bigger problem. There are too many guys out there coming from tennis backgrounds that can pass from both sides. If he doesn’t figure out his backhand quickly, Tyson won’t be seeing too many more podiums at major tournaments going forward.
- Gabriel Joseph – Outside of the four top players, I think anyone else can be considered a dark horse at best in this field. It’s hard to tell how much time the man known as “Baby Kyrgios” spends on his pickleball game but he is undoubtedly supremely talented. Super fast and, again, has the ability to pass from both wings. He lacks a big serve and the consistency to reach a podium at this stage in his development. I still expect a deep run from him.
- Dekel Bar – Bar has good results when he plays singles. A big serve and a big forehand is a recipe for success against most players. I don’t know where his fitness is at though and he doesn’t have the consistent backhand ground stroke that makes life easier in singles.
- Colin Johns – Colin barely plays any singles but brother Ben is on record saying that Colin plays him tougher than anyone out there. I wouldn’t count on a deep run from Colin but he’s too talented not to mention.
- John Cincola – Cincola is out there for all the old guys. At 41, Cincola beat Devilliers in Delray in March. A drilling partner with Zane, he has clearly been working on that Zane-like serve and he has good groundstrokes on both sides. Do you sense a theme here?
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