NML Newsletter Compilation – March 10th
We had another hiccup with our technical side this week so it doesn’t look like anyone received the newsletter on Friday. Amateur hour over here but, if anyone has some thoughts to provide on delivering a newsletter through WordPress on a different host site, that would be appreciated. We’ll work to figure it out but time can be at a premium sometimes. Anyway, this content was supposed to go to your inboxes Monday morning and we’re providing it here as always, but particularly so since we don’t want to waste perfectly good content!
Paddle Testing is Coming
Quite possibly the hottest topic in pickleball is paddle testing and the major entities of pickleball announced a partnership to implement more stringent paddle testing in the near future. MLP, the PPA and USA Pickleball put out a press release on Thursday that they will be collaborating on implementing the “best in class” equipment compliance testing standards. This announcement was made on the same day that the PPA announced a separate partnership with USA Pickleball to moving Nationals to Dallas, Texas.
The somewhat fractured state of pro pickleball has left a huge gap in having proper check and balances for paddles. Instead of going at it alone or hoping someone else addresses the major problem, the current three most important entities in the sport have banded together to say that they are not going to let this become a bigger issue. There are a bunch of questions that have be answered in this process to develop adequate paddle testing standards, but it is just so crucial that it is being dealt with. Regardless of how it is accomplished, ensuring a level playing field amongst competitors is paramount to keeping up the integrity of the game.
That may sound like hyperbole to some but there is no doubt that paddles make a difference and when players as well as manufacturers are taking steps to game the system to the extent that is causing a serious competitive disparity, something needs to be done. Proving paddles are illegal, particularly when it comes to deflection and dwell time, may be the hardest part of all of this. It is also clear that illegal stuff is happening, but showing definitively that it is happening is another question.
For those who may not feel that paddles make that much of a difference, that may have been the case not all that long ago in pickleball but it is not the case anymore. Rafa Hewett presented us with a perfect example of disparity in paddles on singles day at the Daytona PPA. Playing with the terrible Adidas paddle for the first time, Hewett had trouble getting the ball over the net. Hewett was frustrated to the point that he challenged Zane Navratil’s new ProXR paddle, which passed the test. The Rafa situation is a drastic example because the Adidas paddle is so bad and he obviously has not spent much time adjusting to it – William Sobek has played with an Adidas the past year plus and gets some decent results with it.
Nevertheless, Rafa’s frustration with the Adidas paddle is a clear demonstration that paddles can make a big difference and, if the rules developed are enforced, we are going to see it show in the results of some players most likely.
According to the press release, data collection and analysis of the current standards is going to start at the Daytona MLP event in a couple of weeks. There will not be any enforcement or penalties arising out of the data collection process, but it will be interesting to see whether we begin to see any immediate action from players who may not want any testing to show their paddles diverge significantly compared to the average. At least Rafa will know if he’s playing with that Adidas paddle, he doesn’t have anything to be concerned about.
Every person in the human race is delusional to a certain degree. As rational as a lot of us believe we are, we have inherent biases, perceptions and views that make it nearly impossible to have an entirely accurate opinion of ourselves, which is already incredibly subjective. Professional athletes can often be more delusional than the majority of the population. That delusion can be important in providing the confidence that is needed to perform at the highest level on a consistent basis.
The delusion is a balance. You don’t want usually want to be so delusional that you’re Russell Westbrook at the end of his NBA career still thinking he is the best player in the world. Conversely, you don’t want to be so realistic or overly negative that you don’t believe you can accomplish what very few are able to accomplish.
This concept of athlete delusion came to mind with James Ignatowich’s recent appearance on the ‘It Feels Right’ podcast. Ignatowich was obviously feeling good about himself coming off his first two PPA titles in Minnesota. He declared on the podcast that he is a top 5 mixed player in the world right now. Yes, top 5.* (this was edited from top 3. He says at 10:30 mark he thinks he is top 5 now and at 18:50 he says top 3 towards the middle of the year). There is a reason why athletes stray away from controversial opinions. If there was a First Take for pickleball, the lead story the next day would have been “is James Ignatowich crazy for saying he is a top 3 mixed player?”
However, the fact is that there are likely a bunch of players out there who have similarly high opinions of themselves. Tyson actually talked about this concept on a recent podcast and how he used that type of self-belief to beat Ben Johns in singles for the first time in forever last year. These athletes need some level of delusional self-belief. It may not always be the best when that type of thinking translates to other non-sports parts of your life, but there is almost a need for certain degree of delusion for pro athletes.
Ignatowich announcing himself as a top 5 mixed player after one PPA title is something. He also called himself a better mixed player than JW Johnson when JW Johnson is one of only two guys to beat Anna Leigh/Ben in mixed in the past calendar year. That’s not to say Ignatowich cannot get there. It’s just that he’s probably not where he thinks he is at this moment.
But that’s okay. He should think like that. As we said, a lot of players are likely thinking these kinds of things. Ignatowich is simply one of the only ones who is willing to say them.
As a loosely related aside, one of the more hilarious things this past week has been seeing amateurs and pros get very excited about a significant bump to their DUPRs due to some changes to the DUPR algorithm, which people may or may not be aware of. We know DUPR is always making tweaks but this recent change is pushing DUPR farther away from the traditional numbers baseline (i.e. 4.0, 4.5, 5.0) for determining skill level. If your DUPR suddenly goes up by anywhere from 0.2 to 0.3 points give or take, it does not suddenly mean you have reached a new skill level when the algorithm is doing the same for everyone else.
MLP Order of Play
There have now been 5 MLP events played since the first event in 2021 and the format is becoming more familiar to fans. For those who are not familiar, a match consists of 4 games starting with women’s doubles then men’s doubles and finishing with the two interchangeable mixed games. The order of the gender matchups has always been set in stone. However, is this something MLP should be looking to change?
In post-match interviews with the winning women’s doubles team, there is usually some kind of discussion about the importance of getting off to a good start. With both the men’s and women’s doubles games only being worth 1 point over the course of the match, there is no statistical difference in which gender goes first. Still, it is reasonable to question whether there is an undefined, psychological consideration at play that may need to be factored into the discussion.
Arguably, the current format slightly favors teams that have a stronger women’s doubles team as they get the opportunity to be up 1-0 and have that psychological advantage. One rebuttal to this point is that, if the on paper “stronger” team is upset, there could be an even bigger psychological edge gained there. Of course, there is a possibility that it makes no difference at all. There is also the chance that a stronger men’s team plays better with the motivation of being down 1-0.
With no reliable way to measure the impact of the current format, we are left to wonder whether MLP ought to consider a separate coin toss to determine the order of the gender doubles games. Not everything needs to be 100% fair at all times, but it seems to us that a coin toss would ensure the highest level of fairness.
Agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments below or email us at email@example.com. Follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, and also make sure you subscribe to our newsletter for fresh content!
16 thoughts on “NML Newsletter Compilation – March 10th”
Thank you for your time and posting. Let’s see; …”in the near future”… So, maybe within 3 years, or never? And …”best in class”… What is the best in class when there is no class right now? That to me means a low bar will be set, which all three have proven over and over. For example; the PPA standard of finding illegal paddles was so incredibly a joke, it literally had to be a nincompoop who came up with that.
So, let’s see, all playing paddles are reviewed upon arrival to the tournament, they are stamped. That stamp is reviewed right before each GAME, and at the END of each game, the stamp is checked. A stamp would have no bearing on how the paddle plays. Okay, solved. 🙂 Oh wait, that wouldn’t work. Why? Too much work for the lazy MFs (USAPA?) who would have to enforce it. And if it is left up to the individual tour groups (lazy USAPA), the deception that the PPA has shown would mean some players’ paddles would not get inspected but still be stamped.
IMO, only a ‘real’ players union will solve many of the problems in pickleball today. The union sets the standard that ALL tournaments and USAPA must follow.
I checked out the resort, Brookhaven CC, they have 12 pickleball courts and they don’t mention pickleball at all on their website. So, why there? Friends of someone at PPA/MLP? Money? If you could investigate that, that would be great, thanks. 😉
PS. And I knew it. That Rafa challenged Zane’s paddle at the end of the match. c(:
DavidJ: You seem to take everything PPA does very personally. Have you been personally harmed by them or closely involved with someone who was?
NML: This is the best newsletter yet. I vote a thumbs up for the idea of the coin toss to decide the order of MLP matches.
Finally, I am so glad someone asked. 😉 They ripped me off when I joined their membership, their website said 50% off on grounds tickets, and they gave me 25%. I emailed customer service which happened to be Hanna Johns. I proved to her that the website said 50% off. She said thank you for letting us know but we aren’t going to honor that, it is 25%. She couldn’t care less. And they changed the web page. I asked for my membership money back, and she said sure, contacted her a couple of times, but never got it refunded. I had to go through my credit card company to get my money back. This was a year ago. And three weeks ago, they, out of the blue, charge my cc $49 for a membership I never wanted. I wonder how many people they do this to who never look at their statements. You can’t get ahold of them, and they don’t respond to the requests by my cc company. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. 🙂 Thanks for asking waggish. Everything I hear from pods, a few pros, and even a high-up ref, PPA is just a lousy company who really could care less about us or the players. And it shows when you go to a PPA event. Thanks for your time. And I agree with the coin toss idea.
DavidJ, Your story sounds normal for PPA. It’s never clear what you are buying. And then you have to trust them to deliver. What a hassle for you. Luckily, we can forget all that when watching the pros.
This is a sad but also somewhat hilarious story. Sorry for having a smile in your misery, David!
Thanks! Now we just have to figure out our tech stuff to ensure it goes out as a newsletter
is this focus on dwell / deflection bc of Selkirks paddles? is it initiated by Joola ?
I think it is the delamination problem of some of the newer technology paddles that are using thermoformed body. Six Zero, Legacy, CRBN X series, Vatic Pro use that technology. They claim the problem is fixed and was only a small % that had the problem. Other claims are that evo foam is being used which I guess is okay around the edges but not in the way that the unapproved Diadem Vice uses it — yet. Though Ronbus claims their 1.16 using evo foam will be approved in the future. Dwell/deflection is about the trampoline effect of the ball coming off the paddle.
No, JOOLA does not appear to have this issue. It is paddle companies like Crbn and/or players modifying USAP approved paddles to juice them up.
I can recall 4 male players winning ppa mixed titles in the last year or so. ben jw riley and james. matt may have but that team has clearly fallen off. Since JW is widely derided on Pro Pickleball forums for his not so elite Mixed Doubles play (I think his results prove otherwise), then you could argue he is already #3 or #4. Unless you want to put dekel jay or AJ up there. I wouldn’t.
We’ll have to see. He might be around all that mix but one result is only one result at the end of the day.
Ranking male players in mixed is tough, very dependent on partners, matchups and draws. If you have a really good female, you have a chance; conversely, if you are a really good female with a really good male, you have a chance. Ben and AL are crazy good together – watching them this weekend was a treat. I can’t think of any combination of players who could have beaten them.
As for JW, he is a really good male player who has to find the right partner that compliments his game and raises it to the next level. There are a lot of what I consider top tier players trying to find that partner that they work well with consistently right now. It takes time and patience, and still may not work out. What should he be ranked? You can argue anything, points for performance tell the story over time.
Regarding other males winning mixed, I think AJ and Koop won a gold in Nov over Wright/Kovalova.
Jorja really seems to complement JW well because she can initiate for JW to get him involved in those exchanges. She also brings badly needed energy to his side of the court, which lacks in men’s doubles with Dylan.
Thomas Wilson could be in the top 5 for sure. The problem is he or any other team will run into AL/Ben in the draw and get knocked out. So you can’t get a good feel of who could be in the running. JW with Jorja is getting close.
Looks like we are already seeing the impact of paddle testing. CRBN power series will have to be tested if used by the pros at the next PPA (Austin Showdown) according to DJ on the most recent TheDinkPickleball podcast (co-host is Zane). This will effect DJ, Wilson, and Vivienne David. “Someone” is claiming they didn’t pass the deflection test but when Thomas asked who did the testing, DJ didn’t know.
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