Authored by Gritty:
There is a fun little invitational tournament coming up this weekend on Saturday, July 17th. It’s the 2nd installment of the Margaritaville PPA Underground Invitational presented by DUPR. This is an event that will take place in Fort Myers, Florida at the Underground, which is owned by mental preparation guru Ryan Sherry. The event is invite only for a select few of the top players in the country and they are competing for some prize money. The teams/matchups are set out in the image below and you can see that it is a group of heavy hitters. The invitational will be streamed on Facebook and Youtube with Scott Golden commentating.
Ryan Sherry is the one who is providing the location so he gets the invite to play. Sherry is a far more accomplished pickleball player since last the 1st installment of this event when he was a virtual unknown. His biggest successes over the past year have come in singles but he’s no slouch as a doubles player. It will be interesting to see where he fits in with all of this as Leigh Waters and Collin Johns are by far the best partners he has played with in men’s and mixed.
Outside of Sherry, the relative newbie to this invitational is Rob Nunnery, who has clearly shown he can hang with the big dogs over the past couple of months. Nunnery will be pitted against Sherry in both of his matchups as it appears they tried to ensure there weren’t any truly lopsided matchups. It may be a tough go for Sherry who simply has not had the high end reps playing doubles even if he almost certainly has the talent to get there.
I have to say that I was disappointed we aren’t getting a few more new partnerships. In an invitational like this, it seems more of an effort could have been made to stay away from the Lucy/Simone, Lucy/Matt, Ben/Collin and Waters partnerships. Even though all those partnerships are pitted against opponents we have not seen before, I think the audience would rather have seen those pairings split up.
Matchups to Watch
With that being said, there are 6 matchups in total and I think you can find things to watch in all of them. I’m highlighting 3 of the matchups below that I am most interested in.
Parenteau/Anna Leigh vs. against Jardim/Kovalova. There is an argument to be made that Anna Leigh is the best female out there and Parenteau was able to beat Simone/Lucy playing with Callie Smith at the US Open. Any time Anna Leigh is playing with a new partner, I am curious to see how she fares.
Wright/Kovlova vs. Ben Johns/Parenteau is interesting to the extent I’d like to see if Lucy/Matt can take down Ben/Catherine. It’s hard in a setting like this to truly determine anything because you need an engaged Ben Johns to properly evaluate any matchup that includes him. I suspect at this venue we won’t get 100% engaged Ben Johns like we saw at the PPA Orange County Cup.
Bar/Nunnery vs. Collin Johns/Sherry is noteworthy to me because I like to see Collin outside of the brother partnership. Much like Anna Leigh without her mother, seeing Collin without Ben, especially as the alpha player in a partnership, is potentially riveting. Collin is so talented and smooth, but he just doesn’t have that much experience playing outside of his brother. He had some good results with Yana Grechkina in mixed at the PPA OC so we’ll see if him and Sherry can hang in this matchup.
If there’s any other storyline that we can try to conjure up from this small event, it will be how Jessie Irvine looks. We have pointed out previously how Irvine’s results have plateaued to a degree this year. She has played a lot with Irina and Warnick in 2021, which can make it difficult at times to see what Irvine’s true ceiling is. Irvine only took bronze the one time she partnered with Jardim in the past and this mixed matchup at the Underground is one that I’d expect her to win fairly handily. Was the first half of 2021 simply a blip on the radar for the rising star of Jessie Irvine? The more time passes, the more asking that question doesn’t seem so reactive.
Let us know if there’s anything that you’re looking forward to seeing at the Underground Invitational this weekend!