That’s it – The 2023 PPA Tour season has officially come to an end after an incredible PPA Finals tournament hosted in San Clemente, California. The top eight players/teams competed in each of the classic PPA pro divisions at yesterday’s Championship Sunday and the results were wholly unsurprising.
Ben Johns and Anna Leigh Waters, the top two pro pickleball players in the world, proved just that by winning in every single event they played in, earning themselves yet another double-triple crown performance. While seeing Johns and Waters win yet another set of gold medals is certainly par for the course, the journey to those medals was anything but basic!
Let’s dive right in and break down each event at the Finals. Remember, this tournament was played in a new round-robin format, which made the finals brackets that much more exciting to watch! For a full breakdown of each pool, take a look at our PPA Finals Preview.
Women’s Doubles – Parenteau/Waters vs. David/Bright
Anna Leigh Waters and Catherine Parenteau capped off their season in a way that perfectly exemplified their season together: undefeated. The two completely dominated women’s doubles all of 2023, and their performance at the Finals matched their track record.
They won every single game they played at the finals, completely taking control of their pool. 4-seeds Jorja Johnson and Meghan Dizon arguably put up the biggest fight with the lowest point differential (11-4, 11-7), but the Parenteau/Waters duo really did just play flawlessly on their side of the bracket.
In Pool 2, the silver medalist team of Anna Bright and Vivienne David put up an equally impressive fight in the round-robin, only dropping one game to Lea Jansen and Jade Kawamoto. Unfortunately for David/Bright, in the finals, ALW and CP continued their winning streak and never let Bright and David find an edge (11-2, 11-5, 11-6).
Men’s Doubles – Johns/Johns vs. Wilson/Newman
To no one’s surprise, the Johns brothers dominated in men’s doubles. They met a tough matchup in the finals against Riley Newman and Thomas Wilson, but Ben and Collin Johns also had a few close matches in the round robin bracket as well.
The closest game was arguably right out the gates in Round 1, when the Johns brothers faced off against Julian Arnold and AJ Koller. Koller and Arnold went up in game one (11-5) with a fiery display that led to some of the best rallies in the whole tournament. However, the Johns brothers cleaned up their act in game two (11-6) and were in full control by game three (11-3).
Pool 2 saw some equally close matchups for the silver medalists. Newman and Wilson lost in round one to Federico Staksrud and Pablo Tellez in Round 1 but bounced back quickly with a super clean victory over 4-seeds Jay Devilliers and DJ Young (11-1, 11-3).
While our favorite team, true 2-seeds Dylan Frazier and JW Johnson played well and earned a winning 2-1 record in the round robin, they ultimately got knocked out of the playoff picture due to their low points differential. Wilson and Newman definitely earned their spot, and it was exciting to see Newman go up against his old partner Matt Wright in the semi-finals!
Women’s Singles – Anna Leigh Waters vs. Catherine Parenteau
Anna Leigh Waters capped off her singles season with yet another gold medal! She took down 4-seed Irina Tereschenko in the semis after a super close match (13-11, 11-9), and then went on to take down her doubles partner, Catherine Parenteau, in a quick two-game finals match (11-7, 11-1).
In Waters’ pool, she started Round 1 with arguably her closest match against Judit Castillo, who even took game one over Waters. However, Waters bounced back quickly and took the next two games with ease (9-11, 11-3, 11-4). This pattern persisted in Round 3 when Waters defeated 2-seed Mary Brascia (10-12, 11-2, 11-4).
In Pool 2, Parenteau was in complete control, not dropping a single game to any of her opponents. This speaks to just how good ALW is and that the Parenteau vs. Waters matchups will likely persist into the 2024 season.
Men’s Singles – Ben Johns vs. Christian Alshon
The Johns and Alshon matchup has to be our favorite from the tournament, as the two battled it out in Pool 1, dominated in their semi-finals matches, and then met up once again in the finals.
The big upset of the tournament was seeing Alshon defeat the 1-seed Federico Staksrud in the semis (2-11, 14-12, 11-0). In the round robin, Staksrud came out as the top-performing player with the highest points differential score of 29, meaning that he earned far more points than lost when compared to any other player in the bracket, including Ben Johns.
However, Johns and Alshon went toe-to-toe in Pool 1, with Johns barely outscoring Alshon with 11 PD compared to Alshon’s 10 PD. This allowed Ben to face off against 3-seed Tyson McGuffin in the finals, who he defeated swiftly in two games (11-2, 11-7).
The finals match itself between Johns and Alshon was back and forth and easily some of the best men’s singles we saw this year – a fitting way to end the season! Johns won the first game quickly (11-3), but Alshon fought back in game two, keeping the pacing to his advantage (11-9). It all came together in the third and final game, which event went to multiple match points; eventually, Johns came out on top and took home the gold (13-11).
Mixed Doubles – Waters/Johns vs. Johnson/Johnson
Johns had two gold medals, and Waters had two gold medals. Good luck trying to stop the two best athletes in pro pickleball who were on the hunt for securing a double-triple crown to cap off their seasons. However, in a strange turn of events after the round robin, Johns and Waters ended up being the 3-seed in the semi-finals… What??
Essentially, in their pool, Johns and Waters took their first two games with ease, but ended up falling to Anna Bright and James Ignatowich in Round 3, which allowed Ignatowich and Bright to go undefeated, pushing them to the 1-seed in the playoffs.
On the other side of the bracket, we saw three teams go 2-1: Kovalova/Wright, Johnson/Johnson, and Newman/David. With points differential taken into consideration, Jorja and JW Johnson ended up being the 4-seed and Matt Wright and Lucy Kovalova took the 2-seed position.
So, Waters and Johns ended up in a favorable matchup against Kovalova and Wright, allowing them to coast through to the finals (11-2, 11-4). The Johnsons managed to knock out the 1-seed team of Bright and Ignatowich in an incredibly close three-game match (8-11, 11-7, 11-9), which allowed them to take on the best mixed team in pro pickleball.
While we love watching the Johnson siblings play together as a team, they were no match for Waters and Johns, who were on their mission for triple crowns to end the year. They managed to take it in just three games (11-1, 11-3, 11-4), marking Ben’s 24th career triple crown and Anna Leigh’s 22nd career triple crown.
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