There was a lot that went on this weekend but outside of one championship match on the pro side it was relatively unsurprising from a results standpoint. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t anything newsworthy from this past weekend and we sift through the hot topics to bring you our 5 takeaways.
1. Seeding (Again) (Slim) – The women’s singles field had one of the most egregious seeding alignments I have seen in a very long time. In the last PPA event, the Orange County Cup, Lea Jansen defeated Anna Leigh Waters in the gold medal match to advance, so what did we get in the first round this week, Anna Leigh versus Lea, which is just preposterous. Quite frankly, it is just not fair to either player. How on earth do you have your previous gold medal match as a first round match up?
The situation was made worse, by the fact they were also on the same side of the bracket as Irina Tereschenko, I think quite objectively Anna Leigh, Lea and Irina were three of the top four females in the field and to have them all on the same side of the bracket is not fair. Take a look at the path Anna Leigh had to the gold medal match, versus the path Catherine Parenteau had and it’s not even close.
As I have said in the past, the seeding errors in these PPA events are compounded by the fact that there is no backdoor to the gold medal match. If you are not going to have a backdoor to the gold medal match, then it is critical that you have fair and accurate seedings, and having two of the most consistent singles players and your previous gold medal match playing in the first round is not it.
Finally, I think the PPA and other pro tours need to be much more transparent with their seeding of tournaments and how it works. There are too many whispers of certain pros having influence on draws etc. I have to think if half the “prize pools” weren’t being paid out to certain players, before the tournament even started, the outcry over the seedings and format would be a whole lot louder.
2. Stacked Mixed Brackets (Gritty) – AJ Koller was on the stream commentating and he mentioned at one point how stacked the mixed field was at this PPA. We have noted it in the past but it is worth mentioning again how strong these fields are. There are so few free first round matchups now. Both Irina Tereschenko/Adam Stone and Callie Smith/Steve Deakin are teams you would expect to breeze in round 1 yet both teams had to battle in 3 against their respective opponents Maggie Brascia/Daniel Roditi and Cierra Gayten-Leach/Dylan Frazier.
Teams that had 0-2 days included Christine McGrath/Spencer Smith, Jillian Braverman/Joey Farias, Martina Kochli/Collin Johns and Gaytan-Leach/Frazier. That’s a lot of quality players who would have likely had a pretty disappointing Friday evening.
3. Business and Religion (Slim) – Callie Smith surprisingly played in the women’s doubles gold medal match Sunday after she had earlier in the week forfeited her women’s singles semi-final match because she wouldn’t be able to play the finals on Sunday, so this definitely an unexpected development. It sounds like Callie who had not previously been playing in any of the PPA’s championship Sundays, will be playing in them going forward. This has major implications as Callie has clearly proven herself to be one of the top female players this year and is a threat to make the final in all three events. Not only do I expect that this will change some of our PPA finals for the rest of the year, I have to suspect, that this will have a major effect on partnerships, as outside the top couple of partnerships, every man and women should want to partner with Callie, but as we know partnerships get set early for the next year, so I will be curious who Callie ends up playing with next year in PPA events.
Callie explaining her decision can be found here, it sounds like she will be playing the doubles events for now if the championship falls on Sunday, but withdrawing from singles.
4. Reffing (Gritty) – Trust me, we are not trying to harp on the reffing. It isn’t super fun for us to talk about but we feel it has to be brought up as there were two notable issues at this weekend’s PPA. Glenn Lucey posted across Facebook pickleball groups with a summary of what occurred and the relevant video here. You can go to the link to see the whole situation and it seems like for both pickleball tours on these major centre court matches there needs to be an additional check and balance in place. This is not the first time a big error has occurred in a PPA match recently and this could easily happen at an APP in the future. The ref went on Facebook and admirably took responsibility for his error.
The second issue related to a more concerning call in the bronze where Adam Stone and Dekel Bar were playing Pat Smith and Jay Devilliers. Bar poaches across the net and jumps the kitchen to finish a point while Stone is at the baseline. A foot fault is called but what comes to light is that the ref insists the fault is on Adam Stone despite him being at the baseline. For whatever reason, the ref refused to concede on the call and that led to Pat and Jay giving up their serves and then getting Adam and Dekel back to their 2nd serve. Good sportsmanship but problematic that the two refs couldn’t confer to get the call right.
When all we are using is a clipboard and a pencil to keep track of score, it’s almost inevitable mistakes happens. The refs are humans, obviously. The PPA appears to have had someone doing some video review for the first time on Sunday and this is a good idea if implemented correctly, but I’m not sure if this was only put in place as a result of the error on Friday. I don’t think the video protocols are in place for line calls at this time but getting things right like the score or foot faults can be much more easily determined on video. I’m curious why video wasn’t in place during the semi-final when this was an issue and maybe it is only the championship matches that it can be in place for with the production is necessary for video replay. Transparency and accountability would be good rather than post-tournament self-congratulations.
Hopefully this video replay is the fix because I don’t want to be talking about more of these types of reffing issues in the future. If video isn’t the fix, I think the pro tours should try to have something in place that goes beyond putting all the responsibility on the ref with the clipboard.
EDIT/CORRECTION: It has been pointed out that Adam Stone’s was a foot fault earlier in the point so we need to make a correction there. The photo is below. My comments still stand but there was no error by the ref other than the hesitant late call. He does sort of point when it happens though. My error.
5. Lucy and Matt Breakthrough (Gritty) – It was 12 times in a row but not 13 consecutive losses to Ben Johns and Simone Jardim. In a very surprising upset, Lucy Kovalova and Matt Wright finally got a win against Simone/Ben who have been completely dominant as a mixed team. They have been literally unbeatable. Honestly, I did not watch the start of this match and got a text from Slim that I should probably turn my attention to it. These matchups have become so boring and I always felt like Lucy/Matt should try to do something differently. It didn’t seem like optimal strategy but having Lucy in front of Simone just felt like something that had to be attempted at least.
Stubborn as they are, Matt and Lucy were able to finally get one without changing their classic stack and in 5 games to boot. They had huge opportunities in the 4th game to close it out and it actually appeared Jardim was getting quite antsy when they were down 9-5 in the 4th game – she was uncharacteristically pressing for points and speeding up balls that weren’t there. Both Matt and Lucy were equally, if not more, anxious it appeared in that 4th game and they ultimately couldn’t close it out. Usually that means a 5th game goes to the better team but all credit to Matt/Lucy for being able to bear down to close out game 5. Huge monkey off their back and they should savor this one as I don’t expect this to be a regular thing for them going forward.
Fantasy Update: It was a very tight 15-14 win for Gritty this week with the Anna Leigh singles victory being the difference. The only podium left off the draft this week was Dekel Bar in singles who ended up with bronze. Bar is probably the #5 singles player if he actually wants to play at all. Please stop withdrawing so we can figure out whether to pick you or not. Thanks, Dekel.
The win for Gritty means we are all tied up again for the year. Just as an FYI, with two tourneys this week, we will not being doing any fantasy previews and instead will be doing more traditional tourney previews.
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