It’s the PPA Tour Desert Ridge Open sponsored by Carvana, which is an online used car retailer that newly minted PPA owner, Tom Dundon, has a stake in. This is going to be a much lengtheir intro with a couple of bigger topics we felt we had to touch on. Most of the familiar, top faces are back in action for a new season of pickleball. The one familiar face and fairly recently announced PPA signed player that you won’t see on the courts this weekend is Lea Jansen. We have no idea what has happened, but it seems her locked up partnerships have dissolved for 2022.
Jansen was slated to play the entire mixed season with Tyson McGuffin but they are no longer registered for any tournaments together. McGuffin said on his podcast this week that he got “punched in the you know what once again” and no longer has a mixed partner. Jansen is currently registered to play a few tournaments with Collin Johns. Jansen was also set to play with Simone Jardim for at least this tournament and then go with Lauren Stratman. Neither of those partnerships are happening. McGuffin had previously confirmed on his podcast that Jansen and Jardim were playing together then it appeared as though Stratman/Jansen would be playing together after Stratman also signed with the PPA. Pretty odd set of circumstances here.
Again, we have no clue what is going on other than the fact of Jansen’s partnerships ending. Lea has also been dealing with health issues so who knows how that plays into it. In the bigger picture, the quick change in partners could signal that these year long commitments on partnerships won’t necessarily stay the course for the entire season.
We completed our draft before the PPA posted the singles brackets on their social media, which is a reminder we need to think about seeding more when doing these PPA drafts. We are very curious how seeding is being done this year by the PPA and whether it is the same as last year – FYI, by the end of 2021, our understanding was that seeding was done based on PPA points with the #1-2 seeds as is, #3-4 coin flip for those seeds, then seeds #5-8 and #9-16 have a coin flip for those spots. We thought this was a settled process but apparently not. The PPA took the men’s draw a couple of hours after it was posted and then reposted a newer version on the social media channels.
The biggest issue on the initial version of their singles seeding was Tyler Loong as the #4 seed. The standings as shown on the website may not be current but they are (1) Ben Johns, (2) Tyson McGuffin, (3) Jay Devilliers, (4) Zane Navratil, (5) JW Johnson, (6) Frank Anthony Davis, (7) Ryan Sherry, (8) Gabriel Joseph. We commented on the PPA’s Instagram post to ask how the seeding is being done but have received no response prior to the post being taken down. It looks like others have similar questions on Facebook with no response from the PPA. The new version has JW Johnson rightfully switched from #9 to #4 then Loong at #5, Koller at #6, FAD at #7 and Sherry at #8.
So again, here we are forced to talk about seeding issues at a PPA event with what is, at best, careless seeding or a change in the seeding process that has not been made public. At worst, we have completely arbitrary seeding that favors PPA players. It may be purely a coincidence, but we have to note the #1 through #7 seeds in the first version of the draw were all PPA contracted players – hint: we don’t think it’s a coincidence. The new draw is better, but it still does not appear to be correct based on any objective points or rankings. If anyone has an answer on how the seeding works, please let us know and we will update this post to reflect that. This really shouldn’t be so hard.
We do want to point out that it is a good move to post draws early both for this reason of issues with the draw and, more importantly, it simply makes sense to release pro draws farther in advance than midnight on the day of the event. The APP should follow suit.
Apologies for the long intro! Too much to discuss. Gritty won the toss in this fantasy draft and chose to pick 2nd. With Slim already 2 up on the year, Gritty needs any advantage he can get at this point.
(1) Ben Johns (Slim)
(2) Anna Leigh Waters (Gritty)
(3) Anna Leigh Waters / Ben Johns (Gritty)
(4) Ben Johns / Collin Johns (Slim)
(5) Catherine Parenteau / Jessie Irvine (Slim)
Slim – I thought Ben in singles, over Anna Leigh in singles was a fairly tight call, but it’s hard not to go with longer proven track record here in Ben. The argument with Anna Leigh would be smaller bracket, less competition, but I’ll go with Ben and his longer sustained success. With the 4th pick, I think the Johns brothers versus Matt Wright and Riley Newman, is very tight, for the top men’s spot. I went with the Johns brothers because they are the proven commodity and this is Riley and Matt’s first tournament together. With the fifth pick, I am going with Catherine Parenteau and Jessie Irvine, as again I feel like they are the most proven commodity in this field.
Gritty – I chose to pick second in this draft because Ben and Anna Leigh in singles was basically a toss-up, and I thought Anna Leigh/Ben in mixed were the clear next best bet despite never having seen them play together. The men’s and women’s doubles brackets have multiple teams with a much clearer path to a possible gold. I’m still on record that we see motivated Ben Johns in 2022 and I believe this to be the case even more now that he is going to be made the face of pickleball from his new best friend, Tom from Dallas.
(6) Catherine Parenteau (Gritty)
(7) Riley Newman / Matt Wright (Gritty)
(8) Callie Smith / Lucy Kovalova (Slim)
(9) Lucy Kovalova / Matt Wright (Slim)
(10) Catherine Parenteau / Riley Newman (Gritty)
(11) Tyson McGuffin (Gritty)
Slim – Callie Smith and Lucy Kovolova are a new partnership, and I do have a few concerns about whether Callie will be consistent enough against the top couple teams, when I suspect the majority of balls will be played her way, but at the end of the day the potential and power of this team was too much for me to turn down. Usually, women are a little quicker to pull the trigger then men, just because the counter punches typically don’t come back quite as hard and fast, however with Smith and Kovolova, I am not sure that is the case, and I think teams will have to be more selective in pulling the trigger against them or pay the price. Matt and Lucy, have a lot of competition for that second mixed doubles spot, but in the first tournament of the year, I am taking their years of experience.
Gritty – Catherine Parenteau was the obvious pick here with such limited competition in singles without Jansen in the field. I’m then quite happy to get Newman/Wright who could arguably be picked ahead of the Johns’ brothers. I do think they are rightfully taken in the #2 slot since it is a new partnership. I had Parenteau/Newman ahead of Lucy/Matt by a hair so to get them as the #3 team is nice value. The Tyson singles pick was a tough one. I chose to take the reliability of McGuffin at the end of the day though as I feel like I have been too quick to avoid him in past drafts and I do like him more with that #2 seed.
(12) JW Johnson (Slim)
(13) Leigh Waters / Anna Leigh Waters (Slim)
(14) Jay Devilliers / Tyson McGuffin (Gritty)
(15) Callie Smith (Gritty)
(16) Jessie Irvine / Jay Devilliers (Slim)
(17) Jay Devilliers (Slim)
Slim – I continue to buy JW Johnson stock, and he keeps giving me every reason to keep buying it. I think Tyson, has a slight advantage over JW, in terms of value because Tyson has that two seed, but I love JW’s upside. The Waters, are also a proven commodity, and grabbing them at 13 makes me feel like I have the women’s points locked up this weekend (though I know Irina and Vivienne are lurking!). Jessie Irvine and Jay Devilliers have been on a tear since partnering and getting them with the 16th pick feels like a steal. Jay at 17 in men’s singles also feels like great value.
Gritty – I wanted to get the Waters as I had them as the #2 women’s team by a smidgen and I slightly regret sticking with my board for the Tyson pick after Slim scoops them up here. I’m still happy with what I’m getting with these picks. Yes, Jay/Tyson are a first-time partnership. However, they are two very consistent players whose styles should mesh well together. Callie Smith’s singles game has steadily improved over the past year plus and she should have minor silver upside with a strong likelihood of bronze. She has had Irina’s number in recent matches so I feel good about this in spite of Irina’s strong play of late.
(18) Callie Smith / AJ Koller (Gritty)
(19) Dylan Frazier / JW Johnson (Gritty)
(20) Thomas Wilson / AJ Koller (Slim)
(21) Irina Tereschenko (Slim)
(22) Irina Tereschenko / Vivienne David (Gritty)
(23) Thomas Wilson (Gritty)
Slim – Cousins, Thomas Wilson and AJ Koller. are a team on the rise. AJ was likely the most improved player on the tour last year, and Thomas burst onto the scene in the last few months. They will be looking to make the podium this weekend, and prove that they belong. Nobody’s stock has probably risen more than Irina Tereschenko’s the last few months. She seemed to be on the decline for the first part of last season, but as her results the last couple of months show, that is clearly not the case.
Gritty – The big board was thrown out somewhat at this point as we had both filled up certain brackets on our teams. Callie/AJ Koller are the no brainer upset pick with what is left on the board. I could see a wide range of outcomes for this first-time partnership, but a podium is definitely in the cards. I hesitantly put Frazier/JW ahead of Wilson/Koller as I’m trying not to put too much stock into their disappointing MLP performance, which was actually okay from purely a men’s doubles standpoint. The take prior to MLP was that Frazier/JW would be a formidable pair. Energy/personality concerns as a partnership aside, I’m not going to let one sub-par weekend change that analysis.
Irina/Vivienne were an easy pick as the 4th best women’s team in this field as they are both playing a very high level of pickleball right now. To round off these selections, both of us had Thomas Wilson as our #4 singles player and he’s here because of how much room for growth there is in his game. Wilson has more podium upside than anyone else left out there in the singles bracket.
(24) Jorja Johnson (Slim)
(25) Tyler Loong / Callan Dawson (Slim)
(26) Lauren Stratman / Jorja Johnson (Gritty)
(27) Spencer Smith (Gritty)
(28) Irina Tereschenko / DJ Young (Slim)
(29) Lauren Stratman (Slim)
(30) Meghan Sheehan-Dizon / Allyce Jones (Gritty)
Slim – Jorja Johnson continues to improve almost every week. There were a lot of ways I could have gone with the last men’s team pick but I decided to go with Loong and Dawson, a team that features solid hands, and good defense, and I think could frustrate teams between Loong’s ernes and Dawson’s lobs. Irina and DJ were a pretty easy pick, with the last mixed doubles spot, but one team that did not get picked that intrigues me is Daniel de la Rosa and Vivienne David. Daniel has long shown extremely high potential and it will be interesting to see him paired with a high end partner like Vivienne. Don’t be surprised if they pull off an ‘upset’ or two. Lauren Stratman was an easy pick with the last women’s singles slot, if her ground strokes are on it can be a problem for opponents.
Gritty – Stratman/Jorja Johnson were another obvious choice at #5. Stratman is firmly an upper 2nd tier female while Jorja is now solidly entrenched somewhere in the next tier. There were a few choices for the #6 singles player – Sherry, Koller, Frazier or even Scarpa – but I went with Spencer Smith. Smith is finally coming to the net on his returns and he’s a reliable performer even if his ceiling is limited. Meghan Sheehan-Dizon/Allyce Jones get the 30th selection in the draft. It could be a long year for these two newly contracted PPA players. Curious what exactly their deals are with the PPA as competing in these really competitive, yet small women’s fields are no joke. This will be a true baptism by fire for the Utah duo.
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