The 2023 PPA Tournament of Champions brought forth two triple crown winners, but neither were Anna Leigh Waters or Ben Johns! Catherine Parenteau secured her second career triple crown, and Tyson McGuffin achieved the same feat as only the second male player to do so.
In the absence of the top-ranked players, Parenteau and McGuffin took full advantage of the open field. However, their exceptional performances weren’t the only highlights of the weekend.
Men’s Singles – Tyson McGuffin vs. Connor Garnett
McGuffin seems to play his best singles in Utah, particularly when Ben Johns isn’t competing. This weekend was no exception, as he took down both upstart Christopher Hayworth (11-8, 11-7), who upset 3-seed Jay Devilliers, and Collin Schick, whose remarkable performance earned him a spot on ESPN’s Top Ten.
Connor Garnett, one of the PPA’s fastest-rising stars, has made himself a fixture at the top of the singles game in 2023, so it wasn’t surprising to see him make another final. He survived a three-game barn burner against Christian Alshon (8-11, 11-5, 11-6) before defeating the 1-seed Federico Stakstrud (12-10, 6-11, 14-12) in the best singles match of the tournament.
McGuffin and Garnett are very familiar with each other’s games as Garnett explained in his semi-final post-match interview with Kamryn Blackwood:
“Tyson and I know each other’s games really well. I was just in Coeur d’Alene doing battle with him. He brought me out there. So going to come out with some strategies, hopefully surprise him somehow and we’ll see who comes out on top.”
Ultimately, Garnett didn’t have enough surprises up his sleeve and fell to McGuffin in two games on Saturday (6-11, 10-12). McGuffin may be enlisting the familiar strategy of keeping your friends close but enemies closer by making Garnett a regular practice partner. Expect to see this match up many more times in the future.
Women’s Singles – Catherine Parenteau vs. Salome Devidze
With Anna Leigh Waters skipping this tournament, the women’s singles bracket was already drastically more open. Still, the late withdrawal of Mary Brascia, the 4-seed, and Tyra Black, the reigning gold medalist, made Catherine Parenteau and Salome Devidze’s path to Championship Saturday even easier.
Parenteau had a tough quarter-final against Yana Newell (11-8, 2-11, 11-7), who has been making deep runs in the singles bracket lately, before breezing through Lauren Strateman in the semi-finals (11-4, 11-5). Stratman went on to win her second singles bronze medal in a row.
There was no love lost between Irina Tereschenko and Salome Devidze in their semi-final match (11-7, 11-3), but Devidze gave a heartfelt message to the victims of the Maui fires in her post-match interview.
Ultimately, Parenteau was too much for Devidze to handle in the gold medal match. Devidze has noticeably added new layers to her game, frequently approaching the net where she had traditionally stayed at the baseline to hit massive groundstrokes; however, no one was going to stand in Parenteau’s way during the last match she needed to win to get the triple crown.
Mixed Doubles – Newman/Irvine vs. McGuffin/Parenteau
A few top mixed doubles teams were missing from the PPA Tournament of Champions: Anna Leigh Waters/Ben Johns, Jorja Johnson/JW Johnson, and Lucy Kovalova/Matt Wright. Riley Newman has played with several female players this year, but he teamed up with Jessie Irvine this weekend, and they immediately became the favorites.
Irvine and Newman won a silver medal together at the 2023 PPA Hyundai Masters, falling to Waters and Johns, so they were on the hunt for gold in Brigham City. They may not have expected to run into the red-hot team of Parenteau and McGuffin under the lights after a full day of gender doubles.
Due to a weather delay, their match was pushed to 9:30 pm MT on Friday night. The match was tough, but Parenteau and McGuffin’s chemistry was on point, and their energy was electric. They took the match in three games (11-6, 9-11, 11-1), closing things out with a spinning inside-out third shot drive from Parenteau past a disheartened Newman.
On the other side of the bracket, the stars aligned for Tina Pisnik and Pat Smith to defy the odds and make a final. Vivienne David and Thomas Wilson (3-seed) withdrew due to illness, and Anna Bright and James Ignatowich (2-seed) lost very early to Andrei Daescu and Rachel Rohrabacher (7-11, 6-11).
Tina Pisnik has only been playing professional pickleball for about a year, and Pat Smith, who wasn’t originally drafted for the next season of Major League Pickleball, has recently been picked up by the Dallas Pickleball Club to replace the injured Brandon French. Pisnik and Smith may have been unexpected finalists, but their on-court chemistry and gameplay were elite.
On Saturday, after losing the first two games to Parenteau and McGuffin (5-11, 4-11), Smith opted to withdraw from the match due to concerns about a potential concussion he incurred in a men’s doubles match the previous day. While this isn’t the outcome either team hoped for, Pisnik and Smith made a statement, and it will be interesting to see what the rest of the year has in store for them.
This was Parenteau and McGuffin’s third final together, but they had previously only taken silver, falling each time to Ben Johns and Anna Leigh Waters. Will this win give them the confidence they need to take down the top team before the end of 2023?
Men’s Doubles – Newman/Koller vs. McGuffin/Ignatowich
Since ending his partnership with Matt Wright, Riley Newman has been unable to get past the quarter-finals with either of his new men’s doubles partners, Julian Arnold or AJ Koller. After a disappointing performance at the PPA Takeya Showcase and without the Johns Brothers in the mix, Newman’s hunger for a win was palpable.
The road wasn’t easy for Koller and Newman as they faced tough opponents on Friday. They got their revenge on Julian Arnold and Thomas Wilson, who took them out at the Takeya Showcase, winning the quarterfinal match in two games (11-6, 14-12), then beat Pat Smith and Jay Devillier in the semi-finals (8-11, 11-9, 11-3).
Smith and Devilliers’s deep run felt like a blast from the past. This was a team at the top of the game a couple of years ago, so seeing them make a semi in their first tournament back together was great. They came very close to ending Newman and Koller’s hopes for gold after taking the first game, but their momentum was halted when Smith fell and hit his head in the second game, prompting concussion protocol and a lengthy medical timeout.
While Tyson McGuffin and James Ignatowich have been playing together for most of 2023, this was their first trip to the gold medal match. They were clearly playing their best complementary pickleball, and moving McGuffin to the left side proved to be the winning formula.
Tyson was a beast on the court, controlling the middle, while Ignatowich’s two-handed backhand made his line a no-go zone. To punch their tickets to Championship Saturday, they were able to beat the number 2 seed Andrei Daescu and Dylan Frazier (11-9, 11-8), then Christian Alshon and Connor Garnett (11-6, 11-3), who were coming off a huge win over Pablo Tellez and Federico Stakstrud.
The men’s doubles gold medal match was incredible. After Newman and Koller took the first two games (11-5, 11-4), it looked like McGuffin and Ignatowich were out of it until, out of nowhere, they won game three 11-0. Once Ignatowich got the serve in the third game, he never gave it up, which is basically unheard of in a PPA final. McGuffin and Ignatowich carried that momentum into games four and five; they were aggressive and messy, but it worked because they were always in sync.
On the other side of the net, Newman and Koller couldn’t seem to gel in the same way; their body language was evidence of that. The match was over two hours long, and every minute was thrilling. Final Score: 5-11, 4-11, 11-0, 11-7, 11-8
Women’s Doubles – Parenteau/Todd vs. Smith/Jones
Anna Leigh Waters is undefeated in women’s doubles in 2023 with both of her regular partners, Catherine Parenteau and Anna Bright. At TOC, neither Bright nor Parenteau had Waters by their side, so there were many teams that could have ended up on top.
When her original partner, Etta Wright, had to pull out of the tournament at the last minute, Parenteau called up the queen of the APP, Parris Todd, and invited her to Utah. Todd was always confident they could win the tournament, but it wasn’t easy.
They barely squeezed by Susannah Barr and Vivian Glozman (5-11, 11-5, 12-10) after defending a match point, then beat the tough team of Jade and Jackie Kawamoto in three games (11-13, 11-8, 11-5). They met the number one seed, Lea Jansen and Jessie Irvine as the sun set on Friday night and defeated them in two games (11-9, 11-5).
One thing is for sure: Utah LOVES Callie Smith and Allyce Jones. The crowd in Brigham City was going ballistic for their hometown ladies, and it undoubtedly helped them make multiple thrilling comebacks to secure a spot in the final.
While this is a new partnership, Smith and Jones practice together often, so it’s no surprise that their on-court chemistry was excellent, and it was clear they were having a blast. Neither Jones nor Smith is a stranger to gold medal matches, but they couldn’t get it done against Todd and Parenteau. After winning game one, Todd and Pareteau figured out the perfect strategy to take advantage of their stack, and they were never able to recover (11-8, 5-11, 5-11, 1-11).
Parris Todd and Catherine Parenteau looked like a strong doubles team, leaving many to question whether this duo could one day rival Anna Leigh Waters. While we haven’t heard anything about them playing more tournaments together, Parris’s future with the PPA is in question, so I’m sure many female players are wondering if she will make the switch. What we do know is that when she comes over to the PPA, she comes for gold, as she told Kamryn Blackwood in her post-match interview:
“It’s fun to be on the PPA Tour. I don’t get to be here much, but when I do, I like to come over and win.”
Despite his bravado and over-the-top antics—multiple Miller Lites were chugged on the sideline throughout the weekend—Tyson McGuffin broke down in tears when accepting his third trophy of the day, giving credit to his wife, trainer, and team, then saying:
“I’m happy to be here, super blessed, huge shoutout to PPA for putting me on the platform, let’s keep the year moving. Daddy’s healthy.”
With a new season of Major League Pickleball about to start and many more tournaments together, the sky is the limit for Parenteau and McGuffin in 2023.
We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!
Let us improve this post!
Tell us how we can improve this post?