PPA Tour Finals Preview

📸 @ppatour

The PPA has put this finals event together with the top 8 players from each gender qualifying to play in singles and the top 16 players from each gender qualifying to play for the doubles events. This is actually a pretty interesting event considering the partnerships have been put together through a player draft. For each gender, the #1 ranked player chooses their partner from any of the remaining qualifiers and the process repeats until the 8 teams are formed, always starting with the highest-ranked player available choosing their partner. In mixed doubles, they do the same thing and go down the list of ranked players with the most points making the next selection, regardless of gender. 

What is hard to understand about this finals event is that PPA not doing anything to publicize the draft beyond posting the partnerships and explaining the process of the draft. That would have been good content and it is a missed opportunity from the PPA to do more with this unique event. We all like seeing different partnerships and when you add in the layer of players drafting their partners, it creates a level of intrigue that is not present at any other tour event out there.

The format for the tournament will be round robin pool play that feeds into a playoff. Let’s break down the most interesting storylines from the doubles draws.

Yes, we are aware of the recent news breaking Wednesday afternoon/evening about the email MLP players received regarding pay-cuts. This preview was already in the hopper so we’re posting it as is.

Mixed Doubles

Unfortunately, we have to see Ben Johns and Anna Leigh Waters play together one more time in 2023 as Anna Leigh selected Ben to be her partner. It didn’t take long for things to get interesting as Riley Newman had the next pick and chose Vivienne David. We haven’t seen Newman and David play with one another as Vivienne David plays almost exclusively with Thomas Wilson on tour. Vivienne is a rock-solid mixed player and has proven her ability to fit into a variety of different partnerships. This probably ranks as the #1 most partnership for us to watch this weekend considering Riley has not had quite as good a 2023 as we expected in both men’s and mixed. If Riley can get a big result with Vivienne David, it will be duly noted.

The next two partnerships are both ones we have been seeing a lot of recently. Anna Bright selected James Ignatowich and Jorja Johnson took JW Johnson.

Things got a little bit spicy with the next pick. Catherine Parenteau took Thomas Wilson over her 2023 partner, Tyson McGuffin. Considering that McGuffin has publicly announced that Parenteau did not want to continue with their partnership, it is not surprising that Parenteau would go with Wilson over McGuffin. This is the fun part of a draft. We wouldn’t normally get to see Wilson and Parenteau playing with one another, except maybe at MLP, and now we’re going to get a chance to see if they can knock off one of the top 4 seeds to get into the playoffs.

Jessie Irvine selected Dylan Frazier over Tyson McGuffin and Matt Wright. Although, Matt Wright was probably off-limits in principle with the Matt/Lucy partnership set in stone. That left Tyson McGuffin to go with Lea Jansen instead of Lucy Kovalova. McGuffin and Jansen are well-known to have, let’s say, an up and down relationship so it will be fascinating to see what that looks like on court.

We have to pick the top 2 seeds to come out of each group and we have to give the edge to JW/Jorja to get that #1 seed as the more experienced partnership over Newman/David. Getting that #1 seed in Pool 2 will be crucial to avoid the AL/Ben matchup in the semi-final. Al/Ben vs. Ignatowich/Bright seems like the most likely final as they should have the edge on either JW/Jorja or Newman/David in the other semi-final.

Men’s Doubles

The men’s stuff was relatively chalk from a draft standpoint. Ben chose Collin. JW chose Dylan. Matt Wright took James Ignatowich, which was a no brainer considering they are set to partner together in 2024. This is a high-level test of Wright/Ignatowich’s future partnership as Ignatowich is coming off a good Nationals showing with Tyler Loong and Matt Wright keeps getting solid results away from Riley Newman. 

With his pick of the remaining litter, Riley Newman chose to go with Thomas Wilson. Wilson has been one of Newman’s merry go round of partners in the second half of 2023 and he offers Riley more of what he needs from a men’s partner than anyone left out there.  A right-sider with pop and comfort to allow Riley to take the court he needs. Tellez fits the bill here too, but it appears players were hesitant to scoop up players with already established partnerships as Tellez and Staksrud end up with each other. 

We get to see a new partnership for Tyson McGuffin as he goes with Dekel Bar. You might think a McGuffin/Bar pairing automatically sees Dekel on the left and Tyson on the right, but we’ll have to see if they try to do what was so successful for McGuffin/Ignatowich with James on the right. 

The groups round out with DJ/Jay and Julian Arnold/AJ Koller. Arnold and Koller could be hilarious to see how Arnold reacts to some of AJ’s decision-making.

We have to expect pool 1 will go #1 to the Johns brothers and #2 to Matt/James. Pool #2 has JW/Dylan locked into that #1 spot with Riley/Thomas fighting it out against Pablo/Fed. At this point, that matchup is about a toss-up, but we’ll give the slight edge to Pablo/Fed for their consistency with one another. This is shaping up to be another Johns vs. JW/Dylan final with the Johns coming out on top. 

Women’s Doubles

It would have been more fun if the PPA put a stipulation on drafting teams. Something like not allowing partnerships that have played in more than two or three events this year. We know they don’t want to do that for their best players but everyone would have been more excited by that prospect. Such is life. 

Anna Leigh Waters chose Catherine Parenteau first. Anna Bright took Vivienne David with the next spot and it’s a testament to David’s play that she was the 2nd pick in both women’s and mixed. Bright/David did not have success earlier this year and we’ll have to see if Bright can finally get some momentum in women’s doubles outside of her partnership with ALW. 

Callie Smith selected Lucy Kovalova next. Allyce Jones, who some may not have expected to be next on the list, went with another Utah lady in Etta Wright. Jones and Wright should offer that classic alpha-beta relationship and are a frisky team in this silver medal is up for grabs field. 

Lea Jansen then went with Jade Kawamoto, which should be an ideal partner for Jansen in another classic alpha-beta situation. We saw Jansen have success with Jackie Kawamoto at the end of 2022 and continue that success through with Allyce Jones in the first part of 2023. Jansen hasn’t had a big women’s doubles result for a little bit of time but this might be the perfect spot for her.

We finish off with Meghan Dizon/Jorja Johnson, Jessie Irvine/Lacy Schneemann of the Chicago Slice and Irina Tereschenko/Yana Newell. Two questions with these last partnerships. Can Jorja Johnson get a surprise result in women’s doubles? Are the middling MLP team of Irvine/Schneemann able to do something more in a tour style event? Both answers are more likely than not to be a negative.

Pool 1 is clearly the softer pool on paper. Allyce Jones/Etta Wright should be the favorites to come out of that #2 slot, but they are probably the #5 team if we were ranking them. We’ll take Bright/David and Jansen/Kawamoto to come out of Pool 2, even if it doesn’t feel right to leave Smith/Kovalova out of the playoffs with their proven track record. Taking that #1 seed in pool 2 will be crucial as that is the team that avoids the daunting ALW/Parenteau semi-final and should be favored to take a silver medal. 

Women’s Singles

Lea Jansen is back in singles, which means there are 3 clear top women once again. Catherine and Lea should come out of pool 2, and Anna Leigh Waters should be the #1 seed in pool 1. Pool 1 has 3 players who all have a chance to get that #2 seed. Lauren Stratman has a number of singles medals this year and beat Mary Brascia at the last event in Daytona while Judit Castillo and Mary Brascia are strong singles players as well. We’ll actually take Lauren Stratman to come out of this pool, keeping in mind that it really could be Brascia or Castillo.

Expect an Anna Leigh Waters vs. Catherine Parenteau finals matchup with ALW taking the win. Lea Jansen was clearly the #2 women’s singles player before “retiring”, but we can’t in good conscience take her when she hasn’t been tournament tested over the past few months. 

Men’s Singles

Ben Johns is the clear-cut favorite and the #2 spot in pool 1 has to be Connor Garnett. Christian Alshon’s singles game has not seen the higher highs more recently and that may partly be due to his lack of a reliable backhand groundstroke. 

Pool 2 is more up in the air. Federico Staksrud has not had a strong finish to the year whereas JW Johnson and Tyson McGuffin are fresh off recent Championship Sunday appearances, including a Nationals gold for JW. Pablo Tellez cannot be forgotten either. Tellez is very boom or bust in singles, but this is a format that could be ripe for a boom from Pablo. We’ll go with Staksrud and JW Johnson, but that’s about as coin flippy as it could get with any of the top 3 guys in this group. 

For a finals prediction, we’ll lean with Ben Johns and Federico Staksrud, and be original with a Ben Johns victory.

For a finals prediction, we’ll lean with Ben Johns and Federico Staksrud, and be original with a Ben Johns victory.

Agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments below or email us at nmlpickleball@gmail.com. Follow us on Twitter, Instagram, Threads and Facebook. Also, listen and subscribe to our podcast on Apple, Spotify and YouTube!

20 thoughts on “PPA Tour Finals Preview

  • November 29, 2023 at 7:45 am
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    Thank you for your time and posting. Exciting, spicy? I don’t think so. Boring and predictable, absolutely. Will it be good pickleball, basically? I wrote a bunch of stuff but erased it. Bottom line. As a professional sport, PPA events are just a joke and hurt the sport of pickleball more than move it forward.

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  • November 29, 2023 at 8:43 am
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    I’m excited to watch, even if it does look like a predictable finals day. Should be fun!! I think this is a great idea and maybe with tweaks can get even better!

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  • November 29, 2023 at 10:28 am
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    Thanks for doing such a clear breakdown of the event — I didn’t have time to look into this, now I feel like I have enough of a grasp on the event that I can enjoy it thoroughly.

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  • November 29, 2023 at 12:09 pm
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    I’ll watch it because I like to watch Pickle, but if Ben and Anna Leigh don’t both get Triples I’d be shocked!

    Podiums: Mens singles: Ben, Tyson, Fed (the last two may switch, but I doubt it)
    Mens doub- Johns, JW and Dylan, Riley/Thom

    Womens’ ALW, Bright David, Callie Lucy

    Mixed: Bright/Ig – Riley/Viv

    I feel like this is a big letdown after the yesterday’s news.

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  • December 1, 2023 at 3:24 pm
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    would like to extend my congrats to the PPATOUR and their partners for providing us this novel viewing experience called Linear TV.

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  • December 1, 2023 at 3:56 pm
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    I love the pool format for the PPA finals.

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  • December 8, 2023 at 11:06 am
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    Have you guys gone out of business? I hope not, as I’ve enjoyed your site. But your coverage has slowed to a crawl. I wonder whether your site has been sold, or one of the billionaires has encouraged you to stop the presses.

    Reply
    • December 8, 2023 at 12:43 pm
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      Or they have been silenced… maybe this is Rettenmeier’s revenge?

      Hope they are okay. I missed the write up last week.

      Reply
  • December 12, 2023 at 11:22 am
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    The time is ripe for a Girlfriend Corner spinoff. This was the only site for critical coverage, and its gone silent. What’s the story, Waggish?

    And what’s up with the Rettenmeier challenge? That never happened, right?

    Reply
  • January 2, 2024 at 8:35 pm
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    Very sad with NML seemingly going under/on hiatus. Really enjoyed the content. Cheers fellas.

    Reply
  • January 8, 2024 at 5:55 am
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    “The PPA Tour Finals never disappoint. Ben Johns and Anna Leigh Waters looked unbeatable as usual, but I was impressed by how Riley Newman and Vivienne David pushed them in the mixed doubles.”

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    • January 31, 2024 at 8:57 am
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      A couple weeks ago, one of the NML guys tweeted a reply to someone in which he said they are not gone and will be providing an update soon.

      Reply
      • January 31, 2024 at 8:58 am
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        I heard they are now working with Big Pickle.

        I just hope they are healthy. Seem like great guys.

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      • February 15, 2024 at 8:31 pm
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        Well, it has been a month since that tweet and there has been no update.

        Reply
  • February 1, 2024 at 6:38 pm
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    WTF NML??? No info or nothing! Just disappear without saying what’s up.

    Reply
  • February 4, 2024 at 9:29 am
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    RIP NML? Miss you guys!

    Reply

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