If a tournament happens in a city and doesn’t get live streamed, did it ever really happen? It’s a point that has been belabored incessantly at this point. Although we do not come close to watching every minute of a tournament between the two of us, there’s only so much that can be taken away when we don’t even have the opportunity to go back and watch matches. For those of you that read our APP takeaways, you’ll likely have noticed we have cut it back to 3 takeaways and that’s primarily because we aren’t able to see what has been going on for half of the tournament. Some of these APPs make it hard to come away with 5 takeaways, but the St. Louis event had more than enough happening. At least for the time being, we’ll be keeping it to 3 or 4 takeaways for the APPs until we can watch the entire tournament.
1. Small feelings (Slim) – It is hard not to feel like the APP is really lacking any sense of relevancy these days. Even on a weekend where a number of upsets took place it felt like there wasn’t a lot of excitement around the APP.
Obviously the APP Tour lacks the biggest stars and it isn’t like last year, where the PPA had Ben and Anna Leigh, but after that you could start making arguments about where different players ranked. This year, the PPA definitely has the stars. Outside of Parris, Simone and Andrei, we do not see Premier Level players playing the APP events for most part.
With that said though, it still feels like the APP could be more exciting, with all the new talent entering pickleball all of the time, if they actually showcased this new talent. When fans can’t see these new players because their matches aren’t streamed anywhere, it is hard to gain any excitement about the players or the Tour. The APP essentially streams one day, the men’s and women doubles day. They do stream their championship Sundays as well, but there we often see the same match ups and players week after week. By choosing not to stream their matches, the APP provides no platform for fans to meet their new players, and also provides no opportunity for new players to showcase themselves and build their brand.
The APP, whether it is where they want to be or not, should be the Tour for new and developing players right now, but they offer little opportunity for these new players to really be able to build their brand. They are also making decisions like playing the Singles Pro qualifier in a best two out of three games, rally scoring format with no freeze!
It all leads to the feeling that the APP just isn’t that relevant in the pickleball landscape, and they seem to lack a sense of direction about where they are going. I could be wrong, but this is how it feels.
2. Second Chances Do Exist (Gritty) – The PPA is training us to think that second chances do not exist. They want us to believe that, in life, you get one shot, one chance, one opportunity, to make your dreams happen. By dreams, I mean wins on the PPA Tour, obviously.
One thing I thought this weekend demonstrated is that we may be gleaning too much from singular tournament results with the PPA’s shift away from the double elimination format. With the recent complete elimination of any meaningful backdraw, the PPA has made it clear that they want the focus to be on the main draw. While the approach is fine enough in principle, even if I disagree with it, those of us that are following tournaments from week-to-week may want to reassess how we are evaluating the results in said main draw.
At the APP St. Louis tournament, we saw a couple of prime examples of teams fighting their way through the backdraw after rough early round losses. Rob Nunnery and Andrei Daescu suffered a shocking 11-3, 11-3 loss at the hands of CJ Klinger/Andre Mick in the quarter-finals of the main draw only to fight through a long backdraw to make it into the gold medal match once again. Nunnery/Daescu were able to pull out the first 2 out of 3 in the gold medal match, but could not seal the deal in the game to 15.
We have since learned that Rob Nunnery is dealing with a shoulder issue that is bad enough to force him to pull out of playing TOC this week with Travis Rettenmaier. Regardless of the injury, Nunnery/Daescu were able to pull up their socks and salvage what would have otherwise been a horribly disappointing day for the two of them. The loss they suffered was not streamed but it was clear that the defeat early in the day was an outlier of epic proportions.
The other example I saw this weekend that caused me to have this thought for the takeaway was from Milan Rane and Bobbi Oshiro. They lost a close 3-game match to Amanda Hendry/Heather Nobler, which was not ideal for two upper end Challenger females against two undrafted Challenger females. We included a comment in our live blog about the Rane/Oshiro partnership being one that didn’t seem to be working based on the Hendry/Nobler loss and past results from this year.
However, Rane/Oshiro went on to make a run in the backdraw, including getting a win over Parris Todd/Ewa Radzikowska to get to the bronze match and then winning over Allisson Harris/Mari Humberg to get to Championship Sunday. An unsuccessful day was suddenly a day that was more successful than probably the two of them could have imagined going into Saturday, buoyed by Simone Jardim dropping out of the tournament.
These results made me wonder what we’re concluding at the end of all these PPA events, where teams have one chance to make it happen before their day is over. Riley Newman has had two unsuccessful tournaments without Matt Wright. Is it possible that with more time to gel with these new partners he makes a run if there is a backdraw?
There are all sorts of whacky results that happen at a given tournament that we don’t pay much attention to, especially with only two courts being streamed at the PPAs. If we are paying attention, we often attribute losses to whether X player/partnership is better than Y player/partnership, and likely don’t take enough account for how small a sample size one 2 out of 3 match is in the grand scheme of things.
We have noted this previously but, from a fan and pundit perspective, the elimination of a backdraw means that there is less of a sample size to glean from for player results. The overall body of work is more limited for most of the players and that can make things more complicated from a player or MLP ranking standpoint. Unless you’re there in person at every tournament with eyes on all the matches, you don’t always get to see who played well in a partnership or whether it was an off day or an unsustainable good day.
All this means is that the potential whackiness of one match is another factor to keep in mind when watching tournaments and drawing conclusions from the results. Keep in mind the bigger picture as much as possible, as difficult as that can be.
3. Schaefer’s First Gold (Slim) – Dominique Schaefer has been playing tournaments for over a year now and she has been on our radar, and was selected in the fourth round of the most recent MLP Challenger draft. This weekend was her breakout performance as she beat Salome Devidze to take gold in the women’s singles final. It was not the deepest of singles fields, but beating Salome in singles is still very impressive and it showed Schaefer’s talent.
Schaefer has a very high level tennis background, where she has achieved a top 25 world ranking as a junior and played on the Peru Fed Cup team. Her tennis background and athleticism have suggested that she has the potential to play pickleball at a very high level, but we haven’t really seen it yet. Though her singles results have been improving.
By all accounts, she has not been overly serious about her pickleball training to date, but was apparently telling teams that if she was drafted into MLP she would start really applying herself to pickleball, in particular the doubles game, which has not seemed to be a focus for her.
It will be interesting to see if this gold medal result, and her being drafted to MLP do motivate her to train harder for pickleball, and what that may lead to. She certainly has the raw physical abilities and the high level tennis background to indicate she could be a top end female pro. It primarily seems to be a question with her of whether or not,l she wants to put in the work to get there. These recent pickleball successes have to be encouraging signs for her to pursue it.
4. New Men’s Medals – The men’s doubles bracket concluded with a winners bracket final that no one could have seen coming before the start of the day. Injury aside for Rob Nunnery, we saw CJ Klinger/Andre Mick face off against Martin Emmrich/Jack Foster. While Klinger/Mick were the #4 team selected in our fantasy draft preview, Emmrich/Foster went undrafted.
Emmrich and Foster are not a team that either of us felt bad about not picking in our fantasy preview. Although he is very talented with a better tennis pedigree than almost anyone on tour, Emmrich had not won a pro medal before this weekend. Jack Foster has been getting some better doubles results here and there, but there’s no world that we expected him to be medaling.
However, Emmrich/Foster were able to beat Long/Auvergne, Cincola/Stone and Austin Tchikatilov/Joey Farias on their way to securing a guaranteed medal in the winners final. Despite Long/Auvergne not having great results together, they are two Challenger first round picks that shouldn’t be losing to a guy drafted 48th and another guy not on anyone’s Challenger radar.
Emmrich is out here showing that there might be something to being better than everyone else at the sport you all used to play, which is tennis. Emmrich was once #35 in the world in doubles and the other player with that kind of pedigree who is making waves on tour currently is Tina Pisnik, previously #29 in the world in doubles. Strong day for Emmrich/Foster, and big signs of things to come for Emmrich it would appear.
The ProXR boys, Klinger and Mick, had themselves a complete weekend. We can’t keep calling every upset the surprise of the year, but this is up there as one of them, considering they knocked off Daescu/Nunnery twice. It was particularly impressive to see the two of them get it together after losing the 2 out of 3 to win the game to 15 and avoid being double dipped.
Andre Mick’s results continue to trend upward as he gets his first gold medal. CJ Klinger’s trajectory, while more gradual than Mick’s recently, is on the rise as well. It’s fun to see some new faces in big moments and that is what the APP should be leaning into. We also saw it on the women’s side with Kelsey Grambeau, Tammy Emmrich, Mari Humberg and Allison Harris as well.
New faces and new winners was a big storyline from this weekend, with CJ Klinger, Andre Mick, Jack Foster and Martin Emmrich leading the way for the men.
Fantasy Update: It’s a 16-12 win for Slim. He swept the mixed doubles field and got the Sunday teams for women’s doubles, with the women’s doubles aided by the Simone Jardim injury. The points that we missed out on this week were Allison Harris/Mari Humberg’s bronze as well as Maritn Emmrich/Jack Foster’s bronze. Slim is back to 1 up on the year.
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