The Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason, Ohio, witnessed history being made at last weekend’s 2023 PPA Cincinnati Open. Nearly 1,000 players competed in the event, but only one among them achieved a feat never before seen in professional pickleball.
Ben Johns earned his 100th PPA title, making him the only player to do so in the history of the sport. It was fitting for him to accomplish it alongside his brother, Collin Johns, in men’s doubles, with the rest of his family sitting courtside.
We also saw yet another triple-crown performance from pickleball’s top prodigy, Anna Leigh Waters, and while we saw Johns in all three events, he may have been defeated in singles… Let’s take a closer look at each event from this historic event!
Women’s Doubles – Waters/Parenteau vs. Kawamoto/Kawamoto
Catherine Parenteau and Anna Leigh Waters are back on a roll together since Parenteau has returned from her break, and it doesn’t look like anyone will be stopping them anytime soon. Together, they swept through the competition without dropping a single game and defeated Jade and Jackie Kawamoto 3-0 in the finals.
The Parenteau/Waters duo took down several other big-name teams, like Hurricane Tyra Black/Lauren Stratman and Andrea Koop/Jessie Irvine, and took that energy with them all the way through to the finals. Jade and Jackie had an equally impressive run, as the sisters also didn’t drop a single game going into the finals.
Each game of the women’s doubles finals was entertaining despite the 3-0 sweep, as the Kawamotos kept fighting to the very last point. Parenteau and Waters took game one quickly 11-4, but the Kawamotos pushed back in game two, and even managed to tie it all up at one point (7-7).
Waters and Parenteau managed to close game two, 11-7, but the Kawamotos didn’t give in going into game three. In fact, they started with a 4-point run right out of the gates, and from there, they continued to trade the lead with Waters and Parenteau. Despite the Kawamotos pushing the game to multiple match points, Waters and Parenteau managed to secure the gold medal at 13-11.
Men’s Doubles – Johns/Johns vs. Frazier/Johnson
Men’s doubles is where Ben Johns managed to earn his 100th career PPA title, but it wasn’t without a battle against Dylan Frazier and JW Johnson. You know you’re in for a top-tier match every time these two teams meet.
Ben and Collin have now won 24 gold medals together as a team, making them one of the winningest men’s doubles pairs in PPA history. Frazier and Johnson are the only team to beat the Johns brothers on Championship Sunday this year, and the teams have continued the exciting rivalry ever since.
Frazier and Johnson didn’t drop a single game going into Championship Sunday, taking down the likes of James Ignatowich/Tyson McGuffin and Jay Devilliers/Dekel Bar. The Johns brothers were met with a couple of intense battles on their side of the bracket, including a match against Riley Newman and Thomas Wilson (7-11, 12-10, 11-0).
The first two games of the finals went to the Johns brothers (11-6, 11-6), but Frazier and Johnson managed to win game three 11-8, which pushed the match on to a fourth game. While it was close, the Johns brothers held the lead for the entirety of the game, winning 11-8 and securing Ben’s 100th PPA title.
“Going into it, I didn’t think about it too much, but now that it’s here, it’s pretty special. Super grateful for my family being here. It couldn’t be more amazing than having family behind you while you’re accomplishing what you want to accomplish, so special thanks to them. I love you all, and thank you very much.”Ben Johns on his 100th career PPA title
Mixed Doubles – Waters/Johns vs. Wilson/David
Surprise, surprise! Anna Leigh Waters and Ben Johns took home another gold together in mixed doubles after defeating the team of Thomas Wilson and Vivienne David. The two continue to be unstoppable together and will continue to do so into 2024 since they have signed exclusively with the PPA.
However, the rise of Thomas Wilson and Vivienne David was exciting to see in this tournament, as the two have been building their on-court chemistry throughout the year, and it was only a matter of time to see them on Championship Sunday. David and Wilson only dropped one game on their way to the finals and upset the 2-seed team of Riley Newman and Jessie Irvine in a quick two-game match (11-6, 11-2).
The finals match itself was exhilarating. David and Wilson started strong with a surprising 6-1 lead over Johns and Waters, and managed to hold that lead to 10-9. However, Johns and Waters clutched a 3-point run which allowed them to win 12-10.
Johns and Waters assumed control of the match in game two and didn’t lose hold of that lead for the rest of the finals. They took game two 11-4 and finished things off swiftly in game three, 11-1.
Women’s Singles – Anna Leigh Waters vs. Catherine Parenteau
CP has proved she’s at the top of her game in doubles alongside ALW, but Waters continues to dominate in singles. While Parenteau has returned to the PPA in style, including a triple crown at the Tournament of Champions, Waters managed to secure yet another gold medal in singles at the Cincinnati Open (11-6, 11-2).
Waters had an easy go of her side of the bracket and didn’t drop a single game all tournament. Parenteau, on the other hand, had to battle her way through all three of her matches leading up to the finals, with several matches single multiple game points and the semis going to a game three against the underdog 22-seed Rachel Rohrabacher.
Waters now has 30 career singles titles, and this secured her 18th triple crown.
“Me and Catherine have been battling singles for so many years. So props to her for being able to keep her composure and keep getting to Championship Sunday in singles almost every single tournament. I mean, she’s amazing; I think she proves that every weekend, and I love her personally.”Anna Leigh Waters on playing against Catherine Parenteau
Men’s Singles – Ben Johns vs. Federico Staksrud
All the top seeds made it to the semis in men’s singles, and the top two, Federico Staksrud and Ben Johns, faced off in the finals. Staksrud managed to pull off a win, earning himself his third gold medal of the year.
Both Johns and Staksrud were in peak condition this tournament, with Johns winning every game going into the finals and Staksrud only dropping one against Jaume Martinez Vich in the quarters. The finals match was truly a battle, with both players going back and forth, pushing it to three games.
Staksrud took game one 11-9 after a hard-fought battle, but Johns responded by going up 10-0 in game two, securing the win 11-2. Game three was another back-and-forth match between the two, getting tied up at 9-9. Staksrud managed to close the game in style with two big back-to-back points at the kitchen line.
“This was such a battle. Ben is the best in all events, so I knew it was going to be really tough. Today, I got the first game, then I was down by a lot, and then the crowd kept me pushing. This was just because of them honestly – I was just there trying to run and hit balls, but the energy, the passion, and the mental fortitude was all about the crowd, so I’m really thankful for all of you guys.”Federico Staksrud on beating Ben Johns in the finals
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