APP Tour Beer City Open – 5 Takeaways – It’s the Grind

Photo Credit: Steve Taylor (Digital Spatula)

The APP’s Beer City Open is in the books. The tourney was able to work around some bad weather in the forecast to get all the matches done. By all accounts, the players seem to have a blast at Beer City and the entire team, including pro playwr Andrea Koop, get about as much praise from the pros as any group does for the entertainment value of an event. We will make our obligatory we don’t like only having one stream comment. A lot of good matches get missed, most glaringly the bronze medal pro men’s match that went down to the wire in game 3. We are aware this is not the decision of the APP itself and we don’t have specifics of cost/benefit when it comes to eyeballs vs. cost, but we simply believe more matches being shown is good for the sport. But, we digress. Fun tournament, good matches and we have takeaways as usual.

1. It’s the Grind (Slim) – Jay Devilliers has played a crazy amount of pickleball the last couple of months. He played pro tournaments 8 of the last 9 weeks, starting with the Cincinnati Open May 14 and running through this weekend in Grand Rapids. Even crazier, he has played the last 6 weeks straight, and all of these tournaments have been on the road for him. We could also call it 9 tournaments in 10 weeks if we really wanted to, since he played a small local tournament the weekend before starting this insane stretch. He has also been going to deep in pretty much every bracket, in every event. Not to mention he got his wisdom teeth taken out last week.

Over this stretch by my count he has racked up 9 gold medals, 5 silvers, and 4 bronzes. So that is 18 medals total, which means he made the podium in 75% of the events he played in. Interestingly to me, all of his podium misses came in mixed doubles, where he got two gold medals over this stretch but otherwise failed to reach the podium in the other events, so it seems like he is a little boom or bust with mixed. I would have thought that he would have reached the podium a few more times over this stretch in mixed. Obviously a lot of this depends on partners, but I also wonder if one area of his game that he could still work on, that would benefit his mixed, is finishing, particularly with his backhand.

Jay never failed to make the podium in men’s doubles or singles over this stretch, which shows elite consistency in those events. So our hats are off to him for managing to keep his level of play up over this insane grind he has been on.

Finally, it also leads me to wonder how pros will manage their schedules moving forward. Next year I believe there are over 50 pro tournaments between the pro tours and other pro events, so a pro could basically play a tournament every week of the year. Obviously no one is going to do that, but I will be curious to see how different pros map out their schedules. Obviously a lot of that will be determined by contractual obligations etc, but I will also be curious to see if pros favor giving themselves “off-seasons” where they can have a month or two at home or if they will prefer to play a couple tournaments a month through out the year.

2. Witsken’s Consistency (Gritty) – Speaking of grinding, Rick Witsken has been a force to be reckoned with on the APP Tour in 2021. He topped the APP cumulative standings list heading into Beer City and then came out with a gold in mixed and a silver in men’s this past weekend. The silver in men’s was especially impressive as he played with his training partner, John Moorin, who has never medaled in a senior pro event. Witsken hasn’t had quite the same success in the few PPA events he has played this year, although he does have a singles gold to his name. However, Witsken won a gold medal with Scott Moore at the US Open, and it is clear he is one of the top senior guys out there when he has the partners to go to battle with.

3. Dylan Frazier’s Ascent (Slim) – Dylan Frazier has been on a rocket ship type rise in 2021. It’s his first year playing pro events, and by May he was breaking on to the podium in men’s doubles events, at the pro level. Since his first podium in men’s doubles at the Cincinnati Open, he has been a pretty consistent podium threat in men’s doubles, but until very recently he has been almost a men’s doubles specialist. He was not playing any singles and he wasn’t exactly coming close to the podium in mixed. Then last week at Newport, he got a new mixed partnership with Lauren Stratman and they took a bronze, his first medal in mixed. Fast forward to this weekend and Frazier took 4th with Stratman in mixed, he and AJ Koller took another 4th in men’s doubles and then he played pro singles for the first time ever and took bronze. His fourth place finishes were also by the narrowest of margins, as he and Lauren lost their winners bracket semi-final 11-9 in the third game to Steve Deakin and Callie Smith and then he and AJ lost 15-13 in the game to go the bronze medal match to Rob Cassidy and Rob Nunnery. This is a long way to go about saying, Dylan has now quickly become a podium threat in all events, a very impressive rise.

It will be interesting, to see where Dylan’s game goes from here, and it will certainly be fun and exciting to watch. His singles game will certainly need refining. I did not see any backhand passing shots this weekend, but if he was able to obtain this weekend’s result, with some obvious areas for improvement his ceiling could be quite high, In mixed I think he still needs to pick up lots of the nuances of the mixed game, but these recent results should open lots of partnership opportunities for him to continue to get those reps in the highest levels. He won’t even be 20 until later this

Something cool about Dylan is, as far as I know, he does not have an elite tennis background, unlike other young pickleball phenoms like JW Johnson and Anna Leigh Waters.

4. Singles Surprises (Gritty) – JW Johnson finally took down Jay Devilliers, which really was not a huge surprise. Johnson beat him a couple of weeks ago at the So Cal Classic before being double dipped by Devilliers. It is noteworthy though as Johnson’s singles game has been trending upward recently and I thought he was the clear #2 player in this field. Devilliers probably ran out of gas at the end of an insane stretch of tournaments for him. However, it is still an upset for the young gun to be able to win twice over the Frenchman. We noted it was #breakoutszn for JW and Dylan Frazier a few weeks ago, and these two dudes continue to ascend.

The real surprises of the weekend were Bobbi Oshiro and Dylan Frazier, who both came away with bronze medals. We already discussed Frazier above but I took Milan Rane in our fantasy draft as a complete shot in the dark on my women’s singles team and, in hindsight, Oshiro is who I should have gone with. Rane and Oshiro have come into the 5.0 radar at a similar time, and Oshiro has a significantly stronger tennis background than Rane. It probably has gone like this for a lot of Oshiro’s athletic career but her small stature ends up leaving her underestimated by spectators. She’s a very smooth player who is playing more and more pickleball, but if I was going to take a shot at a younger female, it should have been for the former Boise State Bronco. She had not played a singles event in her brief tournament history so we’ll see if this encourages more singles from her.

5. Guess who’s back? (Gritty) – Steve Deakin is. At least, it kind of looked like it at the Beer City Open. After taking over 2 months off after the US Open with a wrist injury, Deakin came back a couple of weekends ago in Newport to less than stellar results. It was difficult to tell whether to chalk his Newport performance up to lack of high end partners, his lingering wrist problem or rust. A little from column A, B and C was likely the answer, but he came into Beer City for a big test having Callie Smith and Adam Stone as partners. I was skeptical even though I picked him in both events for our fantasy draft.

While Deakin did not appear to be firing on all cylinders in Grand Rapids, he came out with a couple of silver medals when all was said and done. It appeared to me on the Saturday playing with Callie that Deakin didn’t look like his usual self yet. His forehand dinks in particular were not as crisp and the power was not as forceful to me. However, I think the fact that he can take the time off at his age and that he probably is not healthy, is a reminder of how damn good and consistent Deakin is. Wrist injuries can really linger so hopefully he is being smart with it but expect to see Deakin on many more podiums in 2021 if he can stay healthy.

Fantasy Update: It was a tight battle until the final day with our fantasy picks this past week. Slim was able to pull this one out with his choices in women’s singles securing 5 points from Michelle Esquivel and Lauren Stratman. Slim also was correct in the women’s doubles field getting Remnyse/Esquivel and Stratman/Ansboury who were both able to reach the podium. The Callie Smith / Andrea Koop gold medal proved to be the most clear cut gold medal of the week.

16-12 for Slim in Fantasy this week and that leaves Slim one up for the year.

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