There is now only one tournament left on the California pro swing after the APP Los Angeles Open over the weekend. This coming weekend will be USA Pickleball’s event in Newport. Although it is not affiliated with the PPA or APP, it does have $65,000 of prize money associated with it. The weird thing is that the APP English Open will be going on in, of course, jolly old England. The USA Pickleball event in Newport is a pretty strong field for a non-pro tour event and it will undoubtedly take the focus away from what is a unique thing, with a sort of pro event happening across the pond. There’s also an APP Next Gen event with a dual live stream. We knew there would be a lot of tournaments this year because, you know, there was a schedule, but the grind has to be real for these players who are partaking in so many events. Anyway, we’re not here to focus on the future. We’re here to give takeaways on the past. Here are the takeaways for the APP Los Angeles Open.
1. Dylan Frazier’s Almost Triple Crown (Slim) – Dylan Frazier has had a couple of big weeks in southern California. Frazier has gone double gold back to back weekends, in men’s doubles and mixed doubles at the SoCal Open and then the Los Angeles Open this weekend. He also added a silver in singles this weekend in Los Angeles. The silver in the singles was very noteworthy, as he had not had a singles result of consequence in a while. It also meant he was extremely close to his first ever triple crown, which for a player with no tennis background, would have been especially impressive.
There is not a lot to say about the men’s doubles results, at this point when Frazier and JW Johnson partner you pretty much expect them to win gold, if the Johns brothers and Matt and Riley aren’t in the field, and they did that and made it look easy the last couple of weeks.
The mixed results are more impressive as we saw Dylan take gold in SoCal with Jorja Johnson, where they defeated JW Johnson and Lee Whitwell and then in Los Angeles, we saw Dylan partner with Anna Bright turn around to defeat Jorja and JW. The wins with different partners, and over JW, made me wonder if we aren’t sleeping on Dylan’s mixed potential a bit? He hasn’t had the regular higher end mixed partners yet like a lot of the other top players. It made me want to see him with higher end mixed partners in the bigger tournaments to see what he can accomplish.
2. Mary Brascia. Not a Fluke (Gritty) – The heading on this takeaway is not meant to insinuate that Mary Brascia’s first pro singles gold in SoCal seemed like a fluke. Rather, it’s meant to be a confirmation that our eyes did not deceive us in SoCal. Brascia backed up her first singles gold with another singles gold at the Los Angeles Open. Buoyed by a lack of Parris Todd on both weekends, neither of these fields were the strongest for Brascia. Nevertheless, these were not cake walk draws either.
After losing game 1 to newcomer Rosie Johanson earlier in the day, Brascia was only able to win game 2, 11-9, and then pulled out game 3, 11-6. Johanson has two singles tournaments to her name now and our guess is that this result will likely look a lot different in a few months once we truly see what Johanson can do (hint: we are bullish based on early returns). Brascia was then able to get Anna Bright two more times this weekend. Brascia had to battle harder, winning in 3 games in the winners bracket final and then losing the 2 out of 3 in straight games for the gold match.
In the game to 15 against Bright, Brascia proved she was too much yet again. She seems to do everything a little bit better than Bright when it comes to singles currently, especially her coverage at the net. Brascia has established herself as another threat of what was a pretty established singles hierarchy at the start of 2022. Despite Jorja Johnson falling off the map recently in singles, which could be related to fatigue, there are a number of new female names that will continue to make it harder for Anna Leigh, Catherine Parenteau, Lea Jansen and Callie Smith to maintain their current standing.
So, yeah. Mary Brascia. Not a fluke.
3. JOOLA Fever (Slim) – It is quite interesting that, since the CRBN paddle was banned, and now that the new version has been released, there seems to have been a switch among the free agent pros in their paddle of choice from the CRBN to JOOLA. We have also seen rising stars Federico Staksrud and Parris Todd, who were both CRBN sponsored players, are now playing with the JOOLA paddle. Federico has ended his relationship with CRBN, and is now a JOOLA sponsored player. Parris is apparently still a CRBN sponsored player according to recent interviews, but it is worth mentioning that the new CRBN paddle has been out for weeks, and she has not transitioned back to it.
Obviously, when it comes to the sponsorships there are a lot of financial factors, but it can’t be avoided that players have switched from the CRBN to the JOOLA, who are not sponsored. My suspicion, which is something Rob Nunnery also speculated about on on his podcast, is that CRBN has had to significantly reduce the grit on their paddle to make sure that ALL of their paddles will pass the roughness test, while other paddle companies are able to continue to push the limits with the grit, and likely due to inconsistencies in the manufacturing process have paddles over the limit. We saw in the original video posted by JOOLA president Richard Lee on Instagram performing a test on the JOOLA paddle to clear up concerns about legality, that the paddle used in that video, actually failed the test (they had added the numbers up wrong so they thought it passed, initially). Considering the original Donn Paben video and the first Richard Lee video, we know there are likely some JOOLA paddles out there over the limit. And I suspect the same thing applies to the other gritty paddles out there, but now due to the microscope that CRBN is under, they are at a competitive disadvantage as they aren’t able to push the limits like these other companies. It can’t be forgotten Anna Leigh Waters challenged Parris Todd’s JOOLA in San Clemente too (side note: it would be nice if the PPA released the specific results of challenged paddles to see how close to the allotted additional margin the PPAs paddle compliance policy a specific paddle is).
As a result, players not bound by contracts are going to look to use every edge they can get and it is becoming clear that players no longer feel like CRBN provides that edge, and they seem to be flocking to that JOOLA paddle.
4. Senior Men’s Notes (Slim) – It was a fun men’s senior pro podium this weekend, as going into the weekend I had the Dave Weinbach and Scott Crandall partnership and the Dayne Gingrich and Rick Witsken partnership as almost a lock to meet the gold medal match. Weinbach and Crandall defeated Gingrich and Witsken in the winner’s bracket final and went on to win gold. Gingrich and Witsken’s day, however, ended in the bronze medal match where they were defeated by Mircea Morariu and Paul Olin.
It was a big win for Morariu and especially forOlin. While Morariu has been a consistent men’s doubles podium presence this year, primarily playing with John Sperling, Paul Olin’s men doubles results have been more inconsistent, so to see him beat out Gingrich and Witsken two of the most dominant senior men’s doubles players this year was impressive.
It should also be noted when these partnerships were reversed earlier this year at the PPA Desert Ridge Open, and Gingrich and Crandall partnered, while Weinbach partnered with Witsken, it was Gingrich and Crandall who took gold, while Weinbach and Witsken took silver. So it would appear that Crandall is a more ideal partner for both Weinbach and Gingrich.
It also remains somewhat mystifying to us, why Gingrich and Weinbach are so dominant when they play together, but neither is truly dominant when they play apart.
5. Big H’s Big Weekends (Gritty) – A different type of back-to-back for Hayden Patriquin in California as his silver medal with Julian Arnold over the weekend meant it was back-to-back pro podiums for the endearingly nicknamed, Big H. Patriquin has made a big leap over the past few months from a yet to fully hit puberty junior that was getting some nice wins to a legitimate pro who is a threat to take down some of the best teams out there. It goes without saying that his first silver medal was his best performance of his young career, but it’s also the way he went about finding that silver medal that is notable.
In this tournament, DJ Young and Thomas Wilson were the clear #2 team in men’s doubles going into the weekend. Patriquin/Arnold didn’t care. They took their aggressive style and worked Young/Wilson to a 2-game victory, 11-6 and 15-13. Now, the 15-13 game 2 could have gone either way and, if it doesn’t go their way, Arnold/Patriquin may have found themselves with another bronze. But that is not what happened. The two routine losses to JW/Dylan are to be expected and the fact that they find their way to a silver was about as good as you could imagine for them.
The thing about Patriquin is that he has the ability to make things happen on some very marginally attackable balls. People talk about him generating a lot of power for his stature. Even if that’s true, the discussion should be his ability to generate power where most players cannot. It’s the fact that compared to anyone out there, size notwithstanding, Patriquin can do a lot when he is not given much from his opponents. While his go for broke kind of style does lead to a few too many errors, he has come a long way already in finding more balance to his aggressiveness and it should only get better from here.
We also can’t discount Julian Arnold’s role in this partnership. Arnold is a real talent who is also trying to figure out the right balance of aggressiveness and patience. However, when you see Patriquin and Arnold across the net, there’s going to be a lot of relentless attacking no matter the results and that clearly has not been fun for opposing teams the past couple of weeks. It’s exciting to see what both players can figure out either separately or together as time moves on. Both are still early in their pickleball journeys and there is plenty of time to develop more nuance to their doubles games.
What is clear right now is that Patriquin and Arnold are both already forces to be reckoned with.
Fantasy Update: It’s a tie! 15-15. Gritty’s choice of Mary Brascia over Anna Bright and keeping the faith with Gabriel Joseph kept the score tied. On the other hand, the surprise Dylan Frazier singles and Rosie Johanson bronze both prove to be huge for Slim in being able to avoid a loss yet again. That means Slim stays 6 up on the year. It’s a game of inches, folks.
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