The APP’s biggest event is over and done with. Although pickleball is not much of a thing in New York City yet, the venue for the tournament was held at the most well-known tennis facility in North America – Flushing Meadows. Major League Pickleball (MLP held its draft reveal on Saturday night in NYC during the tournament as the APP and MLP team up in an effort to hold the premiere events in pickleball. A lot of prize money was on the line in New York and some unexpected results led to some significant dollars going the way that we may not have expected going into the tournament. Time to get to some takeaways.
1. Kooooooooop (Slim) – Andrea Koop was the first female taken in the MLP draft and she backed that pick up with a very strong weekend in New York.Koop took gold in women’s doubles playing with Simone Jardim and also found a silver in mixed doubles playing with Zane Navratil. Precious medals, some might say.
Koop has long been one of the better women’s players out there, and shown that she can more than just hang with many of the top players. However, her ability to participate in pro tournaments has always been limited by her day job of as an attorney. This has often hindered her ability to get top flight partners and I have also felt that it has limited her ability to improve her game as she has not been able to get as many reps against the top players as other pros do. This year, though, she seems to playing more events than she ever has before as by my count she is already at 11 tournaments played this year. For reference, she played 13 tournaments in all of 2021. Koop also seems to be getting more top end partners as well, likely as a result of her increased availability.
On the whole, her results this year have been impressive. She is almost an automatic for the podium in the APP Tour and we have also seen her take down some of the top women’s players in the game. At the US Open, Koop and Irina Tereschenko took down Callie Smith and Lucy Kovalova. It’s hard to forget the big bronze takedown in Austin with Jorja Johnson that we didn’t realize was another piece off the Jenga tower that was the Parenteau/Irvine partnership.The talent has always been there, but now in 2022 the results are also there for Koop. MLP is coming up this week and she may have had some good fortune with her female partnership as the #1 female pick there.
2. Lost in the Atmosphere (Gritty) – Since the NYC tour stop was announced, this was by far the most hyped event for the APP Tour. Biggest prize money. Historic venue. Quite a few marquee players. There were a lot of winning elements to this tournament, and it was clearly a draw from a talent pool perspective. The problem for the APP came from the optics. While I expect it was not the fault of the tournament to have their center courts featured in such a way that the stands were not close to visible, it was quite evident from commenters that the atmosphere was lacking. The camera angle was too high up and didn’t capture the stands that were too far away from the courts to even be in the periphery. Of course, the large stands were partially filled up at even the best of times.
Although the views from Championship Sunday clearly showed there was not an insignificant audience, the size of the stands did not provide the perception of any sort of legitimate crowd. The comparisons are inevitable to the PPA and, whether it is organic or not, the PPA more often gives the impression to the audience that their events are larger. For tournaments like Red Rock or even Charlotte, they pack those stands close in a way that a relatively small number of people feels bigger than it may be in reality. It should be noted that the previous weekend in Atlanta there were quite a few empty seats throughout the weekend, even on Championship Sunday, at the larger venue for the PPA’s Grand Slam event.
It’s great that the APP were able to get Flushing Meadows secured for the tournament but I’m not sure how much that matters when the venue feels too big for the event, which it did for most of the weekend. Now, we’re so early in this pickleball game that it may be more important to show the players “look what we can do” rather than have the fans be wowed at home. First and foremost, you need players to have a tour. There is no doubt that building a foundation is key – the how on building a solid foundation as a pro pickleball tour is the question. It’s all sort of chicken or egg type stuff. You need players to have a tour but if there aren’t fans who care about it then there are no players and vice versa. The PPA and APP have very different approaches to this as we have highlighted in the past.
I think the big takeaway for me is that from a fan viewing perspective in a vacuum is that it’s better to have a Red Rock type setting rather than a big stadium situation. Pickleball is not in the place where it can support large audiences over the course of multiple days. That doesn’t mean the tours should confine themselves to small venues, but the fact is that it feels bigger watching it on a live stream when there is a more intimate crowd. It’s cool that the APP could get this whole New York thing together and it may very well serve them well in the long run that they could make this a marquee event. Maybe it’s even a destination in future years. But as far as the feel of the weekend goes, it appeared to be a tour stop that was far more exciting for the players than it was for the fans.
3. Corrine Carr’s Throwback (Slim) – Corrine Carr has had a pretty disappointing year so far in 2022, and this was coming after what was probably a disappointing end to the 2021 season despite a hot start. Even though Corrine had a few podium appearances this year, a bronze and silver with Simone Jardim in women’s doubles, and a bronze with Zane Navratil in mixed, she has had far more 1-2 type days this year than podium days.
We were really starting to question whether she could get results at the pro level anymore as it seemed the game may have passed her by. Her podiums with Simone seemed to be more a result of Simone still being a fairly dominant force among the APP women, and some women’s fields that lacked depth, and Zane and his serve seem to almost be a cheat code in the APP mixed fields. But then this weekend, she showed out with an impressive double bronze outing. Carr and right side specialist Vivienne David pulled out a bronze in women’s doubles, and then in a very deep mixed doubles draw she got a bronze with DJ Young. While Carr and David definitely got some luck with how the bracket played out, it was still surprising to see her on the podium with Vivienne as they are both better suited as right-side players as neither of their games are offensively oriented. In mixed, Carr and DJ Young had to fight through an extremely talented and deep draw to earn the bronze as well. We know how scary DJ Young is when he is on but Carr had to hold up, which she did and then some, including a crazy 20-18 win to get to the bronze over Stratman/Arnold.
I still have a lot of questions about how Corrine’s defensive game with no power translates to today’s pro game, but this weekend showed that it is still a little early to be counting her out entirely.
4. Ripsken Witsken (Gritty) – We have already put the spotlight on Rick Witsken in or takeaways not too long ago ways but in an event in New York that featured just about every top senior pro player outside of Dayne Gingrich (I probably missed a couple of others who didn’t attend), Witsken had a really quality gold and silver weekend. He secured his gold in mixed with Beth Bellamy, getting wins over Cammy MacGregor/John Sperling, Gina/Cilento/Dave Weinbach and Julie Johnson/Mircea Morariu. The pair actually almost lost to a rare Dawson couple partnership sighting earlier in the day but they were able to find their stride to keep it going the rest of the day. Bellamy and Witsken have formed a really strong partnership in mixed.
In the men’s draw, Witsken/Crandall only lost to Derisi/Weinbach – both in the semi-finals and in the final. Derisi/Weinbach did not drop a game all day and it’s a testament to Weinbach maybe showing that he is the alpha in that Dave/Dayne partnership. But back to Witsken. He and Crandall beat a number of very good teams en route to a tough silver. After a long week of pickleball for the seniors, including the Melissa McCurley Cup, the two strong podium finishes for Witsken have to feel good.
5. MLP Draft Grades – Our fifth takeaway is going to be a tease for our infamous draft grades for MLP after the draft reveal on Saturday evening. If you don’t recall, we were called out by Kyle Yates for our D not D minus draft grade of his 2nd place Chimeras team. Will we be as dead wrong as we were with our draft grades again this year? There’s only one way to find out! We’ll have the draft grades up either on Tuesday or Wednesday for all to dissect. Hint, we may have some concerns about the Bus. Sorry, Kyle!
Fantasy Update: 2 in a row for Gritty? What world are we living in? A 15-13 fantasy victory after Slim made some bold choices going Oshiro/Bright over Koop/Jardim and then going back to back with Todd and Bright in women’s singles. Those picks backfired on him and were the difference in the win at the end of the day. Slim is now 5 up on the year.
Agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments below or email us at email@example.com. Follow us on Instagram and Facebook too!