We didn’t do a fantasy draft or live blog for the Newport tournament this past weekend but there were enough higher end teams with notable results that we thought we would do a couple of takeaways. We talked about the Johnson’s being fatigued a couple of weeks ago and we thought it was worth mentioning in our opener that they have now played tournaments in 11 straight weeks. There is not a question that is too much pickleball, both mentally and physically. They will have a little bit of a break here until the Beer City Open in 2 weeks but we’re only in July. There is a lot of season left and it seems that next year that calendar needs to be parsed down if they are going to sustain their high level play for any extended period of time.
1. New Kids on the Block Teaming Up (Slim) – Anna Bright and Parris Todd, have probably been the two biggest breakout stars this year in pickleball, and most certainly on the women’s side. This weekend in Newport was the first time we saw them team up together. While it wasn’t one of the deeper women’s fields we have seen this year, the dominance they displayed on their way to winning the gold medal was impressive. Anna and Parris did not drop a single game on the day, and the most points they gave up in a single game was 7 against Jorja Johnson and Lauren Stratman, the team that had won the Los Angeles Open just a week before. Other than that 7 point game, they never gave up more than 4 points in a game over the course of the three matches they played.
Both players are still very new to the sport, and are still figuring out the intricacies of the game, which really makes their early successes all the more impressive. It also makes it hard not to ponder what the ceiling might be for this team, which already has shown so much promise, and yet neither player has even been playing pro pickleball for a year.
It does not appear that Anna and Parris are currently registered for anymore tournaments together, but it would not be surprising if we did see them team up again. It’s fun to speculate how they might do against the very best teams in the women’s game. I think both players have a ways to go before they could consistently beat the very best teams, but at the same time, I think that on the right day, they could probably beat any of the top women’s right now, based solely on their combined hand speed and counter punching ability. With a bit more seasoning to really figure out the patterns and shot making of the doubles games, I have to think that this team could rank right with the very top teams.
I am sure a lot of pickleball fans would love to see Anna and Parris take on the likes of Lucy and Callie, the Waters, and Catherine and Lea. While there has been some mixing up of teams over the last couple of years, for the most part, the players have stayed the same at the top of the women’s game, so it would be exciting to see some new faces pushing for the top. We have already seen Parris take down Anna Leigh in singles, and win gold, could she do it again in doubles? We have also seen Anna Bright pair with Jessie Irvine in doubles with fine results.
So will we see more of Anna and Parris together? And if they do, will we see them against some of the best in the business? They seem to get along well together so let’s hope that future partnerships are being planned.
2. Maggie Brascia’s Busy Weekend (Gritty) – The weekend started for Maggie with an announcement early during her women’s doubles day that she had been traded from her MLP team, the Ranchers, to the Jackrabbits in exchange for Jackie Kawamoto. We didn’t like the trade (and still don’t) for the Ranchers as we outlined in our trade reaction column. However, Maggie was out there this weekend to show the Jackrabbits did not get swindled with strong showings in both women’s with her sister, Mary, and in mixed with Pablo Tellez.
Maggie and Mary worked their way to a silver medal in women’s doubles, with a very good win over Stratman and Johnson in 3 games, including a 12-10 comeback win in game 3 after being down 10-7. Maggie then came back on the mixed day with Pablo and had a win against Ignatowich/Bright, 12-10 in the third once again. She got a couple more wins in the backdraw before bowing out in a close one to Parris Todd/Kyle Yates, 15-12.
I have always been higher on Mary’s ability more than Maggie’s. Mary is not the smoothest player out there but she played very high level tennis, and she frankly looks more athletic on the court. That may be part of the rub with Maggie. She has a very straight up and down, nonchalant kind of style that may cause people like myself to overlook the things she does well. Maggie is clearly improving and it is evident her defence is very strong. She lacks some finishing power but it is hard to finish points against her from the opposite side of the net. Stratman and Johnson are two of the more powerful females out there, and there were countless points in that match that went back to neutral when the Brascia’s were on the defensive.
It’s always been hard to pin down what I think the ceiling is for both Maggie and Mary, but the more recent results indicate the ceiling may be higher than what I had thought even going into the weekend. I still don’t think it makes trading away Jackie Kawamoto in favor of team chemistry a justifiable move. Nevertheless, the Maggie Brascia story is definitely one that we are going to have to let play out before being too quick to judge.
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