APP Tour Legacy Open – 5 Takeaways – OG. Oh My!
This weekend at the APP was a mish-mash of expected and unexpected. In doubles, it was the favorites winning gold all around while in singles we had upsets on both the women’s and men’s side with Salome Devidze and Zane Navratil respectively. It’s an ongoing reminder for pickleball, and sports in general, that when we think we have things figured out, we do not. This is an ever-changing landscape and will continue to be unpredictable, which is why we watch sports. Obviously. Without any more rambling, let’s go to the takeaways.
1. OG. Oh My (Slim) – It has been a bit of renaissance for the OG, Kyle Yates, this year in men’s doubles. Last year, Kyle did not get a lot of results outside of a couple tournaments with Matt Wright. This year, he has shown though that if you put him with an upper tier male player he can still get results. He and DJ Young had a very solid weekend, taking bronze, and pushing Dekel Bar and Adam Stone to the brink in that bronze medal match.
It is also interesting to compare Kyle’s results to Adam Stone’s this year. Heading into 2022, I think most people would have had Adam ranked ahead of Kyle, however, their results seem to indicate that has flipped. In the tournament Dekel Bar and Kyle played together this year at Punta Gorda, Dekel and Kyle won the gold quite easily, beating JW Johnson and Dylan Frazier twice, in two games both times. On the flip side, Dekel and Adam have failed to get past JW and Dylan this year. Also in Punta Gorda, Adam Stone and DJ Young played together and had a disappointing 1 and 2 day, while this weekend we DJ Young and Kyle pick up the bronze. It’s obviously all small sample size stuff, but I do think it is interesting, and speaks to Kyle moving back up the rankings so to speak.
I have to think Kyle, with his recent success, has to, and should, be an appealing partner for some of the better left side players in the game right now.
We notably had Yates undrafted in our MLP mock draft and subsequently gave his Team Chimeras a D (not D mins) draft grade. As Kyle seemingly accepted his new place in the pickleball world and continued to grind his craft, the results have started to come again over the past 6 months or so.
I have to think Kyle with his recent success has to, and should, be an appealing for partner for some of the better left side players in the game.
2. By Hook or By Crook (Gritty) – Salome Devidze played her first professional pickleball tournament in December 2021. With 7 tournaments of pro singles under her belt now, she already has a reputation. And it’s not the good kind of reputation that comes from getting a gold medal at the Legacy Open while adding to her tally of 4 total wins against Jorja Johnson in her short career. No, it’s the kind of reputation that comes from a blatant disregard for fairness in line calls in a sport that demands some semblance of integrity.
Pro pickleball is not a perfect world. The term “hooking” is used when someone makes an intentional bad call. Whether you’re playing at the amateur or pro level, you have all probably been hooked by your opponent at some point in time. Hooking other players is one of the more prominent dirty little, mostly unspoken hush-hush deals in pro pickleball. We don’t spend a lot of space in this blog accounting for line calls as its prevalence makes it too much to keep track of. The lack of proper video replay makes it quite difficult to be entirely sure of anything as well.
However, Devidze has quickly become one of the most brazen line callers in the pro game. It has been happening in past events and there were multiple instances of it on Thursday with Devidze on center court. At 7-6 in game 2, Devidze calls a ball out that looks to catch the line on the video replay. In a vacuum, this isn’t anything to write home about. These kinds of calls happen on a fairly frequent basis. For Devidze, it is something to take notice of though:
Later, as Devidze was trying to close out the match against Jorja Johnson at 10-8, she serves a ball well long but is not pleased with Jorja’s out call on the serve. I’m not really sure why. Two points later on Jorja’s serve at 9-10, Devidze calls another ball on the same sideline out that, again, seems pretty clearly in. Jorja, who is one of the few players well known for being generous with her line calls, is justifiably not pleased with the call at such an important moment:
As a color commentator and pro singles player himself when healthy, Daniel Roditi has to give these players the benefit of the doubt. As a blogger I do not have to be that political. Devidze has lost the benefit of the doubt. She is staring this ball down as it hits the ground and she knows exactly what she is doing. In her mind, she was already on the wrong end of a tight call only two points prior to that. Not that we should be gleaning too much for what is being said in the Youtube comments generally, but it’s apparent the viewers watching are getting just as frustrated with Devidze.
We saw it against Yu-Chieh Hsieh later in the day . At 3-1 in game 1, Hsieh put a ball that was further in than any ball Devidze had called out up to that point and she had no issue making the out call. Amazingly, a few points later there is Devidze complaining about Hsieh calling a ball out that looks to be out – it is very close. I guess if you’re a person that wants to hook people on line calls, you aren’t going to feel weird complaining about tight calls the other way. It was clear later on in the match that Hsieh called a couple of balls out that looked to be in as retailiation to Devidz too.
Everyone has been on the wrong end of bad calls and everyone has been the maker of a bad call. Not intentionally a lot of the time, but it happens. We are all humans. What Devidze is doing is something I can’t ignore any longer. It’s a pattern. Jorja was on the Pickler Podcast recently and displayed a really good attitude about hooked line calls, essentially saying that if you have to beat me that way then I feel bad for you (I’m paraphrasing here). The Johnson siblings don’t react to very much but it’s impossible for Jorja not to be frustrated by what Devidze has been doing. It doesn’t matter that Jorja went on to win game 2. It doesn’t matter that Jorja did not lose because of Devidze’s bad calls. Devidze beat Johnson again in the finals. That’s not the point.
It does not happen as often but there are other things that are done by players outside of line calls. I have noticed Andrei Daescu as someone who uses certain rules to his advantage that may not technically be considered cheating such as his “hindrance” call at MLP that I noted in the live blog at the time or the controversy with Dekel/Adam in Boca Raton that led what was almost certainly a retalitory hindrance call by Dekel. This stuff is far from an isolated incident in the pro world
None of this funny business is going to stop. We have competitive people playing for legitimate money in a sport that relies on fairness from players. That doesn’t mean that I’m not going to call out repeated and intentional cheating for what it is.
3. In-Zane in the Membrane (Slim) – Zane Navratil was coming off what had to be a disappointing Delray Beach tournament, where he failed to make the podium in all three events. He rebounded in a big way this weekend though, taking gold over JW Johnson who up until now, has had his number this year (along with everybody else), and also added a bronze in mixed with Susannah Barr. Zane seemed to be serving a little bigger than he had been this year in singles, and was following up those serves, with big drives and was able to pass JW. We know that the big serve and big drive is Zane’s recipe for success in singles. There is not a lot of cat and mouse happening on his end.
It will be interesting to see if Zane is able to keep the success from this tournament going. Can he regularly start beating JW or at least competing with JW? Zane also has some intriguing partnerships coming up, particularly in men’s doubles, he has a couple with JW Johnson. It will also be interesting to see if he can string together a run of podium finishes in all events at the APPs.
4. Witsken and Gingrich’s Wild Ride (Gritty) – Dayne Gingrich has mostly stayed away from playing APP Tour events despite the fact that the APP is where most of the senior pros are playing these days. It does sound like Gingrich has finally made the switch to the APP though.
This past weekend, Rick Witsken was partnered with Dayne Gingrich and they had quite the day before eventually reaching the top of the podium. Gingrich outlined on social media the general gist of the day. They played 4 total matches during the day. With the level of competition on the senior pro tour now, Witsken/Gingrich had to battle. They won in 3 games over Peery/Robbins in their first match and then barely squeaked out a 12-10 victory in the third game over Crandall/Booth. They proceeded to win in 3 games against Mills Miller/Paul Olin in the winners bracket final before having to face a 4th different team on the day in Morariu/Sperling for the gold. They lost the 2 out of 3 there but prevailed in the game to 15.
It’s not too often you see the gold medal team having to battle that hard. It really speaks to the parity that we see in the senior men’s division right now particularly. We have gone on quite a bit about Dave Weinbach and Dayne Gingrich’s dominance together, but not apart, and this was also another example of that. That’s 4 different teams at each stage of the bracket that gave Rick Witsken, another top senior player, and Dayne Gingrich, arguably the best senior men’s doubles player, a run for their money. That is a wild ride indeed and undoubtedly good for Mr. Gingrich’s mental coach brand.
We also wanted to give a shoutout to the super senior division. Ken Curry was able to come away with double gold. Curry played men’s doubles with long-time pickleball veteran, Larry Moon, and mixed doubles with Bee Kilgore.
5. Ben and Joola (Gritty) – For our 5th takeaway, we decided to re-post the update I added to our Ben Johns to JOOLA? Report from February after the news came out on April Fools day. That news was that Ben Johns is indeed going to be sponsored by JOOLA. It is very notable when the #1 player out there goes to a company that previously had next to zero ties to the pickleball world. Here is what I wrote:
Ben Johns has announced he is signing with JOOLA. It is clear at this point that JOOLA is going all-in on pickleball as we had noted in our original post below – there are going to be 14 paddles total being released. Johns lined up some media rounds to make his announcement instead of on his own podcast that has not had an episode since January 22, 2022. It sounds like there are a number of other current pros who have sponsorship deals lined up with JOOLA.
The most interesting thing to monitor with this official announcement is where Ben Johns’ new signature paddle fits into the current landscape of pro pickleball. There has been a lot of discussion about the Crbn, its legality and even reports of the PPA possibly banning the paddle. We expect the goal for Johns in partnering with JOOLA is to have a paddle that will push the limits of what can be done. While training, fitness, diet etc. are clearly the most important aspects for a player, it will be monitored whether this change in sponsorship will make any difference for the current #1 player.
Fantasy Update: The big mistakes for Gritty was going Koop/Frazier over Barr/Ansboury during the draft and then having Yates/Young behind Gridley/Cassidy. It was an 18-13 victory for Slim but those two picks would have flipped the win the other direction. Tough. It’s back to 6 up for Slim.
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20 thoughts on “APP Tour Legacy Open – 5 Takeaways – OG. Oh My!”
You are right on with the Kyle Yates comments. It’s good to see him coming back in form. A force to be reckoned with. I want to see him with great partners doing great things! Welcome back Kyle! You were missed!
We feel pickleball is a few years away (meaning more prize money) until there are line judges added to the professional matches. For the sport to grow, players can’t be making line calls at the pro level. Allowing a player to tilt the scales in their favor is too enticing for some. Or as noted in the article, maybe payback for earlier calls against them.
I think this is correct. Not much more to say other than that
Line calls in Pickleball will be a continuing problem until someone FIXES the problem and takes the players out of it. We should not even be having a conversation about a players line calls. It just needs to be fixed. You think it’s an issue now.. Wait until there are betting lines (which are coming) and a bad call flips a losing bet to a winning one or vise versa, even if it doesn’t change the outcome of the match..
On a separate note, I for one can’t wait for pickleball to be big enough that all Pro tournaments are broadcast on real networks so the livestream trolls have no where to troll players. Pretty classless when you see a 15 year old get hit with a drive in her back and then on livestream a person that always trolls her actually posts, ‘HAHAHAHA’.. People need to get a life… Sorry to steal your soapbox 🙂
Thanks for your take…
Agree with your comments Gary. And we don’t do a ton of monitoring of the live stream but it is quite interesting to look when bad calls are getting made
Thank you very much for your time and posting. It is interesting, everyone wants line judges. I was at Legacy in Mesa this weekend and watched the Jorja/Devidze match. The line judges made three horrible calls, only one being overturned by the ref. So, are line judges the way to go? I wish honesty was, but I’ve seen very few players play sportsmanship first… VERY FEW. Two of the few who do are JW and Jorja Johnson, both lose a number of points because they didn’t call the ball out, and kudos to Mr. and Mrs. Johnson. With the quality of video playback the APP has, I would think that could be one solution. I even saw one announcer show (w/ finger up) a player that the call he was complaining about was out, not in as he thought.
And I wasn’t sure what OG meant when talking about Kyle Yates. If it is ‘Old GOAT’, you couldn’t be more wrong. One of the worse sportsmen in pickleball. I’ve watched him for over four years now. When he is winning, he’s great. When he is losing, he constantly complains, has temper tantrums, and badgers the refs. And he had his foot in on Erne’s more than Lee Whitwell ;), but always bitched that he didn’t.
Thank you for your time.
I think you are very wrong about him being one if the worst sportsmen. He seems to be well liked by the other pros.
He gets a bad rap because of old videos and people hate on him. He’s just a normal player who’s intense
The line judge thing is a competency isssue. There will always be bad calls but we’re at the stage we have volunteer refs. The quality you get is what you pay for at this stage in pickleball. But look at reffing at the highest level of pro sports and you will never be without complaint. Bad calls from line judges is better than bad calls from players in my opinion
OG is a term used to describe original or the originator. Some people describe Yates as the OG for this reason
I am impressed that you found 5 take-aways. It didn’t seem this tournament got as much viewership partly because USA Pickleball messed around with where it was broadcasted. I saw some posts on the line calls from Salome but didn’t realize the history. I was giving her the benefit of the doubt — possibly thinking the pickleball compresses like tennis balls. But one static screenshot clearly showed a ball in that could not have been mistaken as out IMHO. Players may have to get more aggressive about accepting their opponent’s calls. Some tournaments allow you to ask for line judges in the medal matches. Makes me doubly glad the PPA allows for video challenges.
Many of the commentators always like to say how the players are all friends off court. Not sure that was ever true and will not be true going forward with some new “styles” coming into the game.
Did you find anything troubling in the “press tour” that Johns did? The Joola line is impressive and I see they also have balls. If PPA switches ball brands we will definitely know just how much Johns influence is with PPA. lol Looks like Joola is positioning for a big Asia market with some of their shapes (round ones like table tennis).
I only watched Stone in a few matches. I saw him make some great plays. I loved his return of Young’s back spin that spun back over the net. Stone reached over the net to hit that return and barely missed being gutted by the net post. But like you have posted many times, all players are getting better and if you don’t keep up, then ….
It was going to be 3 takeaways but then Zane won, and added Ben’s one which is not a tournament takeaway haha. Lots of senior action though and we try to always do 1 for these APPs.
The video replay can be deceiving is my concern. I video my own play and find that the camera is very deceptive on balls i know were in a certain spot. It’s tough but need something objective.
A lot are friends off the court but like any group of people, some are not going to get along.
Did you see anything troubling? Nothing particularly troubling from what we saw I don’t think. No clue how that ball performs either. The Asian market is mostly untapped.
It is obvious that there is a problem especially in singles trying to call lines. One set of eyes sometimes running at full speed and trying to call in or out. Investing in Hawkeye that can be used in CC would eliminate any doubt in calls as it has replaced lines people in tennis. One more note. Vivian David has shown that she is now the best women’s doubles player in the APP taking home gold in women’s and mixed.
Vivienne is the best female doubles player on APP but her partner choices can leave something to be desired
Nothing turns me off watching more than bad line calls. That Jorja is a bigger player doesn’t help. As it is shame is the only power the players have against this…..and some players have none.
I have to say that I too have enjoyed Kyle’s play of late. Maybe simply as I the first Championships I watched on youtube included him. We need personalities in the game and whether you are a fan of Kyle or not I think him playing well is good for the game.
Again gentlemen I look forward to the next post!
Always need personalities! And thanks Nikola
FWIW, I think the ball is clearly out in that first video! But I’ll take your word for it that she has a reputation for bad calls.
I will strongly but respectfully disagree! Either way, the comments still stand haha!
Good stuff. Appreciate the senior and super senior coverage, as well. Interesting comment from Dayne about switching tours and senior pro treatment.
On line calls, watching live, a couple of the Devidze out calls looked in. I don’t think you mentioned that line judges were formerly used in medal matches, and went away when the pro players decided to make their own calls. Line calls are hard, even in doubles.
A question I’d appreciate your thoughts/guesses on, in case I missed an earlier post: With the twin tours now attracting most of the attention, what is left of legacy pre-tour tournaments which pros will attend? Minto, TOC, Nationals? Anything else? Will the legacy tournaments be absorbed? TOC had a good lineup last year. Nationals not so much.
Brave positioning on your part to call out what appears to be a player that is repeatedly making controversial line calls. Public “shaming” has a way of correcting a problem. While it is awful to be the individual that has been accused of poor line calls, it just might happen that ALL players will try their best to play it “clean and play it fair”. Winning unjustly should haunt the player that lives by the credo “when in doubt call it out”. Bravo for shining a light on questionable calls…..now let’s hope the young lady in question understands that pickleball eyes are upon her. As always I am impressed with your commentary.
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