PPA tourney #2 is in the books for 2022. We’ll open the takeaways with some numbers from a commenter on the live blog that we found interesting. With a lot of discussion about PPA vs. APP fields and the depth of those fields, it was pointed out to us that 7 of the 16 men who were selected for MLP were not at this PPA (Yates, Daescu, Pat Smith, Nunnery, Navratil, Stone and Bar). On the women’s side, notable omissions were Vivienne David and Lee Whitwell. It sure didn’t feel like that many men were missing from this field. We don’t necessarily agree with our commenters overall point, but it is interesting how our preconceived perceptions can shape our own narrative.
As usual, we have pickleball takeaways on a Monday. Let’s go!
1. Stale Results Already? (Slim) – The second PPA of the year featured 3 of the exact same match-ups on Championship as we saw in the first championship Sunday, with all of those match ups having the same winner as the first tournament of the season. The first two events of the season have had 4 of the 5 same winners, and the lone new winner this weekend was Ben Johns in singles, featuring the classic Ben versus Tyson McGuffin final, that we have seen so many times. With the Johns brothers looking very strong to start the season, Lucy Kovolova and Callie Smith just too powerful for other women’s teams and Ben and Anna Leigh looking dominant in singles and mixed, one has to wonder how many times will we see the same winner this year?
This is the inherent problem you can face when you want to lock up all the talent. The best players inevitably team up for most, if not all, the PPAs leaving limited variety. The PPA could be served well by incentivizing their players to form different partnerships at the smaller PPA events to provide fans with some more variety. The women seem to have the biggest problem as there is no true 2nd tier class that competes with each other. There are 3 top end teams in women’s doubles and singles, and not much else that looks like they can be challenged. While the men’s side has some very top heavy teams, there a lot of other teams/players out there that you could see potentially vying for a podium position at some point in the year.
It is yet to be seen whether this is going to be a major problem but we’re already seeing posts on the Pickleball Forum discussing this. Will fans get tired of this? We’ll have to wait and see.
2. Jay and Tyson, We Have a Problem. Maybe? (Gritty) – When we wrote our article on new partnerships heading into 2022, I wrote that my only concern with Devilliers/McGuffin was a lack of elite weapons, including natural power and hand speed. It is only two tournaments in, but it is becoming apparent that this could be an issue for Devilliers/McGuffin, who once again settled for a 4th place finish. While I truly believe that we have to let these new partnerships breathe, it’s also impossible not to make some snap judgements based on what we’re seeing. It’s not necessarily that they finished 4th place. It’s how they have looked doing it.
In the last two tournaments, Jay/Tyson have been eliminated by JW/Dylan Frazier and Loong/Koller. You watch those matches and it doesn’t feel like Jay/Tyson have the upper hand. It looks like they are the ones are their heels. When you don’t have better hands than the teams you are facing, it’s hard to be the ones making your opponents feel under pressure. Jay’s best weapon is putting pressure on his opponents by being big, and that’s not happening currently in this new partnership in the way we have seen in the past with Jay.
Slim said to me before the year started he thought there may be a lot of bronze medals in store for Jay/Tyson, but now it seems possible those podium finishes could be more elusive than we envisioned for this team. I still think we’ll see them on the podium. On the other hand, I think it’s going to take more of a combination of draw luck and playing at their highest potential level in order to do that. They are going to have to work very hard for it. And I’m going to go out on a limb to say that’s not what this pair expected when they decided to team up for 2022.
(3) Ryan Sherry. Built Different (Slim) – Society, tends to toss around the term, built different too often these days but Ryan Sherry is truly built different. There has been quite a bit of blog space used for a man who doesn’t actually hit many podiums. But the guy isn’t exactly in his prime physically, he looks the part of a guy in his late 30’s that likes to enjoy all of what life has to offer. He went on a 3 day bender for Super Bowl weekend that bled into the start of the week, and the singles draw this weekend was huge featuring nearly 50 players. You would think this would spell trouble for the one of the older players in the draw who definitely spends more time in night clubs than fitness clubs. His recent results have left us wondering where his game is at. But when that guy is Ryan Sherry, you need to think again.
For those that aren’t familiar, these festivities that surround things like Super Bowl weekend, are an important part of Sherry’s mental training. And that mental training paid off this weekend as he took down Thomas Wilson in three games winning the third game 18-16, lost to JW Johnson in three games and then on the loser side beat John Cincola 18-16, FAD 15-13, and Jay Devilliers 15-7. He ultimately lost to JW in the bronze 8 and 5 again. That takes a lot of mental training (and having arguably the best combined weapons from both sides in singles helps too).
As a guy who used to like to get after it, but now finds in his 30’s that every night out, comes with crushing repercussion, I honestly can’t fathom having a week like Sherry had and then playing pickleball, let alone beating some of the best pickleball players on the planet. That is why Sherry is built different.
(4) Parris Todd (Gritty) – Slowly, but surely, there is more female talent coming into the game of pickleball. The draw sizes are still nothing to write home about for either tour (9 singles and 16 doubles teams at this PPA). As we see different names looking to make their name in these women’s pro draws, it’s not every day that I find someone that really impresses me on a first look. Parris Todd did that this past weekend.
I’ll recognize that this could be flash in the pan type of stuff. She finished 4th in singles, went 0-2 in mixed and 2-2 in women’s doubles. The 4th in singles was the most impressive performance from her as she beat Lauren Stratman and Callie Smith on her way to that 4th place result. Todd’s tennis background is kind of spotty as she has some pretty high level stuff in her teenage years but nothing really beyond that. The singles results come quicker for most players so it’s not completely shocking to see a person like her find a 4th place finish.
Personally, I was most impressed by her center court early round mixed matchup that was shown. She played Hayden Patriquen/Yana Grechkina, and from what I saw she held up quite well for a player that only has tournament history back to October 2021. She’s definitely raw still but the hands look like they are going to hold up if she keeps playing, which may be the most crucial thing for any player. Her women’s matches weren’t streamed on Saturday with Cierra Gayten-Leach, but a 13-11, 11-7 loss to Stratman/Koop and 15-7 win over Sheehan-Dizon/Jones fits the narrative that Todd may have a higher ceiling than most. The 15-13 loss to De la rosa/Klett also demonstrates there’s a lot to work on.
This could all be a fake news eyeball test of seeing some highlight type shots against Lea Jansen and her ability to hold up in a lower end pro mixed match. It is notable she took a game off Parenteau/Newman at Carvana PPA with Rob Cassidy and lost 15-13 to Stratman/Collin Johns. So I’ll take the L if this is an overreaction to one weekend of play because I really liked what I saw from Parris Todd over the weekend.
(5) Ben Johns is Dominant FYI (Gritty) – Ben Johns is doing what we expected him to do in 2022. Other than his loss to Dylan Frazier in singles, Ben has been as dominant as ever. He has come out looking very focused and out to show any doubters he is the best player in pickleball. For the time being, it feels like we’re just going to have to wait until Ben starts to get bored of 2022 before he starts losing again.
Fantasy Update: Although there weren’t any upsets in the PPA this weekend, there was an upset on the fantasy front with Gritty getting a tie in this week’s matchup. 14-14. The only miss for both of us in terms of undrafted teams was Stratman/McGuffin’s impressive mixed performance on Friday. Slim is still 3 up on the year.
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