NML Pickleball Rankings 2.0 – Mixed Doubles

📸 Taylor Jenson

We started with singles yesterday and we’re moving onto mixed today. Look out for our doubles rankings on Monday!

In case you missed it, our definitive Singles Rankings 2.0 from yesterday.

For your additional reading pleasure, here are the links to our previous version 1.0 rankingsSingles Rankings 1.0, Mixed Rankings 1.0, Doubles Rankings 1.0

Top 5 Men

1. Riley Newman – We have described Riley’s style as being a Tasmanian devil on the court, and I think that still applies. He has now shown that he can make this style work with partners who are not just his sister Lindsey either, with the prime example of that being his and Catherine Parenteau’s gold medal win at the PPA Orlando Cup. He is also finishing the year pretty strong, taking silver at both the PPA Championship and the Masters PPA with Lindsey, who is currently five months pregnant. Riley still seems to pretty much just rely, on his natural athleticism, and counting on his hands being faster than his opponents, but you cannot deny the results.

2. Ben Johns – Surprised? Ben’s last 6 tournaments have resulted in a total of one mixed podium, a bronze medal at the APP’s Atlanta Open with Lauren Stratman. This six tournament stretch also includes the PPA Vegas Open where he ended up deciding the night before not to play, and to go to California instead (Freestyle!). That means in the last five tournaments he has actually played in, he has one medal. Prior to Ben and Simone losing the gold medal match at the Takeya Showcase, Ben had been on an insane mixed winning streak, where he had not lost a mixed tournament in almost two years, and had only dropped two matches in 2020 and 2021 up to that point, but had still won gold on both of those occasions. After losing that Takeya Showcase, Ben, on the Freestyle Boys Podcast, said he felt like when he was fully engaged that nobody can beat him in mixed. I tend to agree with this sentiment, but you need to demonstrate it on the court, and we have not been getting that on court performance from Ben lately.

We are aware that Simone has been battling injuries and that her performance has been hampered, but it is worth noting that during this losing streak, Simone played the APP Hilton Head tournament with JW Johnson, and took gold with JW, with an impressive win over Jessie Irvine and Jay Devilliers in the gold medal match. This result made it apparent that you could still get it done with Simone as a partner, so it is far from fair to put all of the blame on Simone for their recent troubles. Also, instead of trying to pick up some of the slack for injured Simone, Ben has seemed to check out of this partnership, and has been far from fully engaged in their matches. This checking out on partnerships, is something we have noted with Ben before and it will be interesting to see if this continues to be a pattern for him, going forward.

Yes, Ben was fully engaged and was mostly dominant in MLP outside of his first match against the Chimeras. But the reason why we gave Riley the top spot is we felt Riley would still be making some podiums the last 5 tournaments with Simone as his partner, in her current form, while Ben has just been mailing it in. It shouldn’t be okay to stop trying and his results in mixed have been worse than any player in this top 5 since Orlando. We need to see it on the court from Ben in 2022, for him to get his top spot back.

3. Matt Wright – It has been a bit of an up and down year for Matt in mixed, but primarily up. After losing to Ben and Simone 12 straight times, he and Lucy finally got the best of Ben and Simone, at the Takeya Championship to claim gold. Matt and Lucy also ended the PPA season on a high note, coming back from 2-0 games to zero against the Newmans to take gold at the Masters at La Quinta. However, along with these successes we have seen Matt and Lucy in less finals lately, as they have missed a couple podiums and picked up a few bronzes as well. Matt has elite weapons and he uses them well in mixed to keep the pressure on opponents. Matt also gets the benefit from playing every tournament with Lucy. Matt’s attacks and power keep him near the top in mixed, but he does not have the same defence as the players above him and that is why he is third on our list.

4. Jay Devilliers – Jay had a strong finish to his mixed year, going on a real tear with Jessie Irvine, and capping that run off with a gold medal at the PPA Championship. Jay, with his tremendous length and athleticism, is able to cover large portion of the court while keeping the pressure on his opponents. The one thing I don’t think Jay has that the players above him have, is quite the same level of attacks and finishing power. I think both Ben and Matt certainly have him in that regard. It will be interesting to see if he and Jessie can keep their ascension going next year. If so, you will definitely see Jay moving up this list.

5. Tyson McGuffin – There is a drop off after the top 4, to Tyson at number 5 in our opinion, and there were a few players vying for this spot. Tyson does not have the same arsenal of weapons or the length and reach, that the others above him possess. He does however possess great consistency, court coverage, fitness and just an overall competitiveness. His gold at the PPA Texas Open with Callie Smith, showed he can still get the job done in mixed doubles.

Just Missed the Cut: AJ Koller

AJ has been getting results and his gold with Jessie Irvine at the PPA’s Las Vegas Open was very impressive. He got it done with Lee Whitwell at MLP. Nobody’s overall doubles stock is risiing more than Koller.

Stock Up: JW Johnson, Dylan Frazier, Zane Navratil

The kids are going to be alright. We know they had a lot of trouble at MLP, but that doesn’t take away from the upward trajectory. JW won a couple of APP events this year including Hilton Head over Jay Devilliers and Jessie Irvine with Simone. And Frazier has had good mixed success with different partners. Zane finished the year strong in mixed, including winning the APP’s Atlanta Metro Open with Andrea Koop, and defeating Ben Johns with Lauren Stratman and Jay Devilliers with Lea Jansen in doing so.

Stock Down: Dekel Bar, Adam Stone, Jeff Warnick

We have noted Dekel’s ability to put together a whole day in mixed a number of times now and our biggest MLP regret was ranking him so high for the men. Stone hasn’t had good results mainly in his Corrine Carr partnership. We are not sure any player’s stock has dropped more than Jeff Warnick this year. After a number of podiums last year with Jessie Irvine, his only podium in mixed this year was at Red Rock, where the frozen hard ball really seemed to suit his style. Otherwise we just don’t think that Warnick has the consistency to get it done at the top pro level these days.

Biggest potential to rise: DJ Young

DJ has all the tools to be an elite mixed player, the question is can he put it all together on a consistent basis? We see flashes here and there like his APP gold with Vivienne David. At a certain point, we might have to quit the tantalizing potential of DJ.

Top 5 Women

1. Lucy Kovalova – The mixed female rankings was where we had the most disagreement internally. Without Simone at the top, this #1 spot could have gone a couple of different directions. We ultimately settle on Lucy Kovalova with this spot due to her consistency. She’s also coming off a giant comeback win at the PPA Masters over the Newman’s. Until recently, Kovalova and Matt Wright were the obvious #2 mixed team – not good enough to beat Ben/Simone, too good for everyone else. While they haven’t always been the obvious #2 team over the past 2 or 3 months, Kovalova’s overall comfort with playing her role in mixed while having arguably the best countering ability of the women is what puts her at #1 for us. It has to be stale at times playing with the same mixed partner and the one time she played without Wright, her and Steve Deakin almost took beat Ben/Simone twice. When you try to envision pairing Lucy with any of the other top players, you have to picture her still winning a ton.

2. Jessie Irvine – The unsustainable Jeff Warnick run ran its course and, since Irvine got together with Jay Devilliers, her game has been able to shine in mixed. She probably doesn’t get enough credit for how successful she was able yo make that partnership with the enigmatic Warnick. This may be too much recency bias putting her at the #2 slot but her consistency has shone through over the past couple of months. Irvine has elite power on both her attacks and counters, and she is a very steady forehand dinker despite her lack of variety overall in both her soft and power game. Her results at MLP were underwhelming but we’ll give her a pass on that one considering her overall body of work.

3. Anna Leigh Waters – One of us suggested putting Waters at the #1 spot, which would have been more of a potential based ranking. AL lands in our #3 spot though because she hasn’t actually won anything in mixed. Although the partners haven’t been the best, she has had a number of tournaments with Tyson McGuffin who did win a PPA tournament with Callie Smith. Waters has played with JW Johnson with okay results, but JW was able to get a gold with in a strong Hilton Head field with an injured Simone Jardim. Anna Leigh may very well go out with Ben and run the world in 2022, but we have to see it before we anoint her as top dog in mixed.

4. Catherine Parenteau – Parenteau’s mixed results have left something to be desired. However, when she has played with Riley Newman, who should be her primary partner in 2022, they are threats to win every time they step out on the court together. Parenteau is a slightly poor woman’s version of peak Simone Jardim and that really is meant in the most complimentary way. She doesn’t have quite the weapons of the players above her on this list but that’s okay when she provides such rock solid play elsewhere.

5. Simone Jardim – We have to keep Simone on this list because of her incredible run with Ben and then her recent gold with JW Johnson at the APP Hilton Head. Sure, Simone is injured and basically all the pop has been sapped from her game at this point. On the other hand, more of the blame should fall on Ben for their failures together and that’s demonstrated by the fact she was able to win with JW when she was losing with Ben – that Hilton Head field was strong. Jardim was basically unbeatable with Ben for about a year and a half. Let’s not count her out at the first sign of adversity and see what she can do if she can get her body back close to 100%.

Just Missed the Cut: Lindsey Newman, Callie Smith

You take Riley away from Lindsey and you wonder what you have. Their styles fit so well together and Riley can make up for Lindsey’s complete lack of anything offensive. But the fact is that Lindsey is an elite mixed player because of her consistency, defense and ability to reset almost literally anything. In contrast, Callie Smith’s mixed results haven’t been there relative to her ability and that likely comes down to not enough consistency for mixed play, which requires the woman to be more of a setup player. We believe strongly in Callie’s ability but she has to show more than flashes in the mixed game to crack the top 5.

Lea Jansen and Lauren Stratman both continue their upward trajectory in the game, and their results show. Stratman’s partnership with Pat Smith ran its course and she showed at the PPA Masters she can compete at the top level with an unestablished mixed partner in Julian Arnold. Jansen will be playing exclusively with Tyson in 2022 and it’ll be fun to see how that one goes – they have shown good chemistry in limited partnerships together.

Stock Up: Lea Jansen, Lauren Stratman, Andrea Koop, Vivienne David, Lee Whitwell, Susannah Barr

Andrea Koop is underrated because she plays less but she showed at MLP how valuable she can be at the highest level. Obviously, Lee Whitwell showed out at MLP and her 2022 results will be fascinating to monitor. On the flip side, Barr had a poor MLP performance but her mixed game was still okay there, which is where she has thrived in 2021. Barr’s stock is still way up and the question is always going to be for her whether she has the consistency to hang week in, week out at the top level.

UPDATE: The article has been edited to include Vivienne David in stock up. This is an obvious oversight on our end as Vivienne has had an incredible run, capped off recently by going undefeated with Zane Navratil in mixed. She doesn’t reach ‘Just Missed the Cut’ status yet but her stock may have risen higher than anyone. She arguably falls into ‘Biggest Potential to Rise’ category but she’s too good for that. She’s a darkhorse for finding her way into the top 5 at some point.

Stock Down: Leigh Waters, Corrine Carr, Irina Tereschenko, Michelle Esquivel

I think the theme of this list is players whose games have stagnated. Waters is still good but the stock down comes down to other players really elevating their games to a new level like Jansen and Stratman. The same goes for Corrine Carr who had a brief uptick in results earlier in 2021 but has now come back down to earth – the weapons and hands aren’t strong enough for what the top level is in pickleball now. Esquivel has big weapons but nothing much has changed about her game. She was exposed at MLP as the weak link of her team and we can’t say we know what’s going on behind scenes, but from an outsiders perspective it doesn’t appear she’s grinding her game.

Biggest Potential to Rise: Jillian Braverman

We first highlighted Braverman as one our #1 Under the Radar female players and, in our view, she has proved that was warranted. We’ll be curious if she plays more tournaments in 2022. We still think she should have been drafted to play MLP as personality concerns in that team environment shouldn’t be taken too far. At this point, she’s still more unrealized potential than anything else.

Agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments below or email us at nmlpickleball@gmail.com

18 thoughts on “NML Pickleball Rankings 2.0 – Mixed Doubles

  • November 19, 2021 at 10:07 am

    LOL guys…
    Ben Johns at number two is a terrible take.
    Is this a last five tournaments ranking or an actual ranking?
    It’d be really interesting to see actual data, player records and head-to-head totals as reference points. No one really does statistics well in pickleball, so it’d be fascinating.
    I think Riley at #1 would look ridiculous if you shared 2021 data, and not a tiny sample size.
    I agree in weighting recent tournaments slightly heavier, but it shouldn’t negate the rest of the results.
    Let’s not be lazy.

    • November 19, 2021 at 10:17 am

      If they’re doing stats then the top 5 women would be completely different. Callie smith wouldn’t get unnecessary praise (especially in women’s Callie is getting weaker and weaker by the tournament, when has she medaled without Catherine?) as well as AL, seems like there is a lot of “household” name bias instead of actually following the numbers of players trending up or down.

      However, following numbers is difficult and have to have a data set predetermined and combine data of at least 6 matches per player. This blog is opinionated and what they see reactionary to a few matches.

      • November 19, 2021 at 11:49 am

        These questions have been brought to us before but maybe not publicly. Callie’s recent results have not been great in women’s but we’re calling that a partner thing. Statistically speaking, she did get a bronze at the PPA Championships with Corrine.

        The Callie questions are more understandable than AL from our perspective. Anna Leigh has had strong results with her Mom and at MLP she was a force with Lee Whitwell. Don’t get that one but would be very curious to see what kind of stats/data support your position on AL

        • November 19, 2021 at 12:19 pm

          AL in women’s is obvious she is great. This is mixed where parenteau has made multiple finals

          • November 19, 2021 at 12:32 pm

            Admittedly, AL is a potential based ranking in mixed. But outside the small Las Vegas field, you take Riley out of the picture and Catherine doesn’t medal in mixed (there might be one other non-Riley medal this year?). She and Riley lost to AL and Tyson in Atlanta for bronze.

      • November 20, 2021 at 6:35 am

        Can’t blame Callie for losing against two strong players when she’s with Christine McGrath or Corrine Carr. 🤦‍♂️ Even when Callie was with Irina she beat Jessie and Catherine. When Jessie was with Irina they could never get past Callie and Catherine. You’ve got to look at partnerships before passing judgement in my opinion. Just my thoughts though 🙂

        • November 20, 2021 at 12:15 pm

          There is a lot of selective results to feed your opinions. Never did Irina and Callie beat Catherine and jessie. They’ve never even matched up

          what’s the response for Callie losing with Corrine to Sara ansboury and Jorja Johnson? Strongest player on the court should win that one.

        • November 20, 2021 at 12:18 pm

          Lauren Stratman has been playing the later part of year with random not so great partners and has made more podium appearances. Just saying.

          • November 20, 2021 at 12:43 pm

            Random sorry excuse me I had it wrong it was Braverman and Barr who rolled over Catherine and Jessie and then Callie and Irina dismantled them. To say Lauren is stronger than Callie is pathetic as Callie and Corrine rolled cover them Lauren and Irina 15-5 in the PPA championships

          • November 20, 2021 at 1:53 pm

            I think that’s the point of all this exercise. If everyone agreed with everyone, then we wouldn’t do this. Your comments definitely make us think about these things and gets us to look at things another way potentially going forward even if we don’t necessarily agree on these things. But if we’ve come to incorrect conclusions, those will bear out over time and we’ll take the L of being wrong

    • November 19, 2021 at 11:42 am

      The question is how many tournaments in a row does Ben not have to show up for before he doesn’t get a pass? Our feeling is that this was too many. We also expect that will change next time we do this but not trying for extended periods of time is unacceptable really

      • November 19, 2021 at 12:45 pm

        A pass for what? Unacceptable to who?
        Is this a ranking list for who tries the hardest or for who the top 5 ranked players are based on results?

        • November 19, 2021 at 2:33 pm

          A pass for one bronze medal being the only podium result (key word) over the last 6 tournaments. Unacceptable us as the rankers. Ben Simmons and James Harden very good at basketball – not as good when they are not trying and trying should matter in our opinion. And is trying the only reason? Cannot be certain based off those last 6 tournaments

          • November 20, 2021 at 6:22 am

            Couldn’t agree with you more NML!

  • November 19, 2021 at 6:51 pm

    It is wonderful to find some top-level pickleball analysis like we get with the other major sports. Your passion and knowledge shines through. Keep up the good work, boys !

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