NML Pickleball Rankings – Mixed Doubles

Jeff Warnick and Jessie Irvine are a force in the mixed game

Yesterday, we gave you our definitive singles rankings. Today, it is the definitive mixed doubles rankings. Once again, we expect there will be no disagreement with our list. It is a definitive list.

Top 5 Women – Mixed

  1. Simone Jardim – Since teaming up with Ben in mixed they have won every tournament they have played and have dropped very few games while doing it. Even before partnering with Ben, Simone was the dominant women’s mixed double players. One example of how dominant Simone and Ben are, is you can look to the men’s cash tournament they played in Florida last spring where they took gold beating Dekel Bar and Adam Stone, your US Open men’s silver medalists. Simone’s defence, the best in the game, makes her such a steady partner and then she has enough weapons to keep you honest and to punish you if you give her something.
  2. Lucy Kovalova – Kovalova and Wright have clearly been the second best team mixed over the last year and a half and I think you have to give Kovalova a lot of the credit for that. In the one tournament that she hasn’t played with Wright, the 2020 Florida Grand Slam, she played with Steve Deakin and they took silver taking Ben and Simone to 3 games twice. I suspect a lot of men out there feel like if they had Kovalova they would be out there playing Ben and Simone for gold. I am not sure that’s completely right, but Lucy is clearly number two and would give whoever her partner is a great chance to make that gold medal match. She probably has the best counter of all the women out there. She will punish you.
  3. Lindsey Newman – Lindsey’s defence remains second only to Simone’s among the women. With defence so often carrying the day with women in mixed, it keeps her in the mix as she can grind all day. An underrated part of her game is probably her ability to move on the court, allowing her Tasmanian Devil of a brother to be everywhere on the court, while still being where she needs to be, when she needs to be there. If she wants to climb any higher though, and for her and Riley to actually start pushing Ben and Simone, she needs to add some better weapons and attacks to her game. Her defence first, second and third style is too predictable for opponents and does not put enough pressure on them.
  4. Callie Smith – Smith probably has the best hands of any of the women in the game. Anybody looking to attack her has to be very careful as she will punish you if you don’t get the ball in the right spot. She hasn’t been able to play a lot of mixed due to not playing on Sundays for religious reasons, but when she is out there, she is certainly one of the more feared women, and for good reason.
  5. Jessie Irvine – Irvine would have been higher on this list last year, but she and Warnick have struggled to find their consistency this year and more often than not have come up short, after pretty clearly being the #3 mixed team last year. Irvine has all of the raw tools and solid results, but we are starting to wonder if she can reach that very top echelon, something that seemed a given when she first burst onto the scene.

Honorable Mentions

Knocking on the Door: Catherine Parenteau, Anna Leigh Waters, Leigh Waters and Lauren Stratman

Catherine Parenteau – As a Simone mini-me, you would think she would be right up there, but her results have been mixed, in mixed (pardon the pun). One wonders is this just a matter of her not finding the right partner, or is something missing in her mixed game, preventing her from regular podiums?

Anna Leigh Waters – As we said in our US Open live blogging, if someone wants to take a shot at the mixed throne, Anna Leigh has the highest upside to be able to accomplish this. She is playing mixed with Tyson McGuffin in a month at the PPA’s Georgia stop and it will be very interesting to see how they do.

Leigh Waters – Leigh’s hands hold up in the mixed game very well, but as Gritty always loves to point, she just loves to bang the ball at the guy a little too often, and until that changes we think her upside is limited in the mixed game.

Lauren Stratman – Steady game that plays well in mixed. It’s unclear what the upside is for her but there are some very quality results over the past year.   

The Veteran: Irina Tereschenko

Irina is solid but, ultimately, she is a limited against the top players. She is not an easy out with the right partner, but the consistency isn’t there for her in mixed.   

The 40 plus Crew: Susannah Barr

Some of you may not even have heard of Barr, but if you want an underrated woman in the mixed doubles game she is it. Her style can come across as awkward but it is very effective. Her podium in Las Vegas last year with Rob Cassidy was very impressive, and in 2019 she was able to catch a bronze with Steve Deakin at the Texas Open. Loong smartly saw the potential in Barr and has partnered with her in 2021 with some wins against very good teams. Take away the 40 plus aspect of it. Barr is on the rise so keep an eye out for her.

Top 5 Men – Mixed

Riley Newman holds the #2 spot in our rnakings
  1. Ben Johns – It was already noted above but the fact that he and Simone took down the US Open silver medalists in a legitimate tournament in 2020 says it all. I’m not taking anything away from Simone in their partnership because Ben Johns wasn’t getting very good mixed results when his partner was Christine McGrath. Nevertheless, there is clearly no one else you would rather have as a partner in mixed (obviously). 
  2. Riley Newman – This was a bit of a debate between us but we ultimately settled the Tasmanian Devil style of Riley for this spot. I don’t know if this style works quite as well without Lindsey, but his results were still very strong without her in 2020. His hands are so fast and he puts so much pressure on his opponents with the frenetic play. The recent results are undeniable too. The only team they can’t beat is Ben/Simone.
  3. Matt Wright – It’s 3 straight bronze medals for Matt Wright and if you go back to the PPA Championships he and Lucy did not even medal there. He has gotten in much better shape in 2021 and what he does with his forehand off the bounce is about the best in the business. We are not completely selling the Matt Wright stock quite yet and his drop to #3 is more of a testament to Riley’s stock increasing than any slippage in Wright’s game.
  4. Tyson McGuffin – Tyson does not have the arsenal of weapons that the others above him possess. However, his backhand is much improved from a couple of years ago, he has more speed ups and he is just so damn steady out there. Of course, the court coverage and fitness are high end as well. McGuffin with the right partner is very dangerous.  
  5. Jeff Warnick – We have described Warnick in previous posts as high ceiling, low floor and you can see that in his results. He has the benefit of playing with Jessie Irvine but that does not take away from the fact that he is a monster at the net, and he does so much with low balls, especially on his backhand. He has such a weird style that is hard to play against and in mixed he doesn’t need to be as steady to make podiums.  There are still too many mistakes relative to the top players in the game but the level he gets to when he is on means he makes our top 5. As an aside, Jeff gets our award for most entertaining player on tour.  

Honorable Mention

Knocking on the Door: Jay Devilliers, Dekel Bar and Zane Navratil

Jay Devilliers – He doesn’t do anything necessarily at an elite level, but his entire game is very good. The well roundedness serves him well in mixed and if he gets a bump in the level of his partners he would be right there fighting for podiums every time out there. Devilliers could stand to do more with his backhand on in between balls out of the air though as this is the one area that is quite average for him. The backhand gets exposed in mixed more than men’s because the guy is often stacked on that left side.

Dekel Bar – The mixed results are coming. It’s not clear why his transition to mixed has been slower than men’s, but it is a different game. It looks like he is starting to figure it out and there is no reason that he shouldn’t be on the podium when he has partners like Catherine Parenteau.  

Zane Navratil – The upside is there for Zane. He covers a ton of court and has all the shots. It’s less important for mixed but his movement could probably be toned down about 10 to 15 percent. Once he finds a way to balance keeping himself under control while still putting that pressure on opponents with his court coverage, that will unlock his potential in both mixed and men’s.

The 40 plus Crew: Steve Deakin

He does amazingly well for his age and he still can do it in mixed despite his age. However, we are not sure how much longer he can keep competing at this high level in mixed as he hasn’t been as good in 2021. While he looked like he had his fitness in a good place at the start of the year, his COVID close contact isolation and being on the road 24/7 has clearly taken his fitness away from being where it needs to be at for him to reach podiums consistently in mixed.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know your thoughts! Reply in the comments section below, or email us at nmlpickleball@gmail.com

6 thoughts on “NML Pickleball Rankings – Mixed Doubles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *