Dylan Frazier first started playing pickleball while his family was visiting his grandparents down in Florida. His mom actually first started playing while she was in college at University of Missouri, and after reigniting that love of the sport, they found a pickleball club in Dylan’s hometown of Columbia, MO.
Shortly after they started playing recreationally, Dylan and his family heard about the Show-Me State Games, a local tournament that the state of Missouri runs that allows athletes to participate in a wide variety of sports. Dylan and his mom partnered up in mixed doubles at the 3.5 level, and despite not medalling at their first tourney, they did get the competitive pickleball bug.
From there, Dylan wanted to see how far he could take it. The professional scene at the time was just starting the form, as the PPA and APP Tours were in their infancy.
He pushed himself to achieve a 5.0 ranking and was then able to make his pro debut at the 2021 APP Tour Punta Gorda Open. Frazier was all in with pickleball, not for the objective of making of living out of it, but just to enjoy playing the game at the highest level.
“At that time, we were playing just for fun. You couldn’t really make a living from just playing tournaments yet, you had to do a lot of teaching on the side to be able to make a living out of it. At that point it was just for the glory really is what we were playing for. So to jump from 5.0 to the pro level was a decision I made because I wanted to play against the best players and see how I did against them.”
Since the days of his first pro tournaments, Dylan has now become a pickleball star on the PPA Tour and in Major League Pickleball (MLP). He recently helped his Premier Level MLP team, the California BLQK Bears, reach the finals where they took home a silver medal.
Frazier played an instrumental role in the Bears’ success at MLP Daytona, where they won all three matches at the group stage pushing them to the number 1 seed and right into the semi-finals. After beating the New Jersey 5s 3-1 in the semis, Frazier and the Bears went up against the Seattle Pioneers led by Ben Johns.
“Federico and I playing against Ben Johns and Tyler Loong in men’s doubles in pool play, we were able to get that one so that was a big moment for the two of us. In that singles Dreambreaker, our team did well. I played against Ben Johns and played pretty well in that matchup. All the pool play matches were super exciting because they came down to Dreambreakers … Really the whole journey to get to the finals was exciting, that’s just how the MLP is designed: Every single match is exciting, win or lose.”
When asked about his opinions on the MLP, Frazier believes that the team competition format is an exciting deviation from the traditional pro tour formats. Having teammates cheering for you on the sideline and also playing the role of supportive teammate are what make the MLP so entertaining in Frazier’s eyes.
You also get a chance to see certain partnerships that wouldn’t normally exist on the other tours, which adds another layer of intrigue to the format. However, Frazier also thinks that sometimes these matchups can impact the overall quality of the match.
“You also get different partnerships which is exciting too. Like Ben Johns playing with Tyler Loong, that would rarely happen in a regular tournament, and that same thing could be said for every single partnership in MLP probably… At the same time, I would say that’s one of the things that I would critique. You’ve got great players playing with players that are a little lower level than them, still great players but not quite at their level, so I feel like the quality of the matches themselves are a little bit lower compared to a traditional PPA tournament format.”
Beyond the MLP, Frazier also plays on the PPA Tour, one of the leading pro pickleball tournament circuits. Dylan recently earned a gold medal at the PPA Vulcan Indoor National Championships alongside JW Johnson in men’s doubles. The two went up against Frazier’s MLP teammate Federico Staksrud and his partner Pablo Tellez.
Frazier’s been able to build great chemistry with Johnson both on and off the court, as the two frequently train together down in Florida. Frazier thinks that playing with someone you have a good relationship with makes all the difference, as it often pushes you to want to win for them.
“JW and I are good friends on and off the court. It’s fun to play next to a friend or someone that you have a good relationship with, because it makes you want to do even better for them and not let them down. JW’s personality is fun too, he’s so relaxed kind of similar to me. He’s a really supportive partner, and that goes a long way in terms of the level that you can reach when you’re playing together.”
In mixed doubles, Frazier recently announced that he’ll be partnering up with Mary Brascia for the first time at the upcoming PPA Newport Beach Shootout, April 21-23. Dylan commented on Mary’s fun personality and is excited to prepare with her for the upcoming match.
For many first-time partnerships, Frazier explained that in most cases, players will only have a little bit of time before the tournament to train together. Most pros will have played against one another at some point and will therefore have a good idea about what their partner’s strengths and weaknesses are. However, in-game adjustments tend to be the most important factor in determining a new partnership’s success on the court.
“When we get together to play for the first time, I think we just talk about the general strategy that we want to use. I think in-game adjustments are the biggest thing. You can go into a match with a game plan and certain things that you want to focus on, but you got to be able to adjust in the game too. I feel like Mary and I both have the personality that we’re going to be willing to do whatever supports the other person or makes them play better, so I’m excited about that.”
When asked about playing singles versus doubles, Dylan commented that he thinks that doubles is where pickleball is able to separate itself from tennis, as the non-volley zone becomes a much bigger factor in the gameplay.
While Frazier still loves to play singles, he prefers playing doubles because of the more complex strategy at the kitchen. He thinks that singles pickleball plays very similarly to tennis, so you lose a lot of the nuances involved with playing at the kitchen.
“I prefer doubles more than singles. One of the big separators of pickleball from tennis is the fact that you have a kitchen line and a no volley zone at the net. I feel like in doubles that’s a bigger factor than it is in singles. In doubles, a lot of the play revolves around using the kitchen line or hitting it into the kitchen, whereas in singles it’s a little bit closer to tennis. If a tennis player were to come in and play pickleball, they’d be much more competitive in singles than doubles right away.”
Because Frazier highly values play at the kitchen line, he likes to focus his training around 1-on-1 drilling at the line. Dinking back and forth and then playing for a point helps Frazier realize his potential near the non-volley zone and allows him to attack from various positions.
He also mentioned that one of his favorite drills is a game called 7-11. Essentially, it’s a drill where one partner starts at the kitchen line while the other has to start at the back of the transition zone near the baseline. The person near the baseline needs to drive the ball in hopes to advance to the kitchen, while the other partner near the kitchen tries to keep the opponent at the back of the court.
“Another thing I like to do is the game called 7-11. For those who aren’t familiar with it, one person starts at the baseline and your drill partner starts at the kitchen line. The person from the baseline just has to work their way to the kitchen line and win the point. Whoever starts at the baseline has to get 7 points, and whoever’s at the kitchen line has to get 11 points because its a little easier for them to win the point. Working your way through the transition zone is huge, because you got to get up to the kitchen line to neutralize your opponents and have a better chance of winning the point.”
Dylan’s Top 3 Ways To Improve Your Game
- Drill With A Partner – You get a lot of reps if you can play with someone consistently.
- Play Against Higher Level Competition – Playing higher level players will allow you to see what works and what doesn’t work for your game at the competitive level.
- Play In Tournaments – Tournament experience is key, as you’ll be most focused in the tournament setting.
As we wrapped up the interview, I asked Dylan what it is that keeps him coming back to the sport. Like so many others, Frazier is drawn to pickleball by two of its greatest strengths: Inclusivity and Competition.
He first started playing the game with his family, and because it was so easy to pick up and play, it became a bonding activity for them. Since then, he’s gone pro and pickleball now also scratches that competitive itch for him.
“I love pickleball for so many reasons, but one of the big ones is just because it brings everybody together from different ages. A 12 year old can be competing against a 70 year old player, so the fact that all ages can play it and its easy to learn and pick up and play right away is what kind of drew me to it in the first place. Now it’s kind of fulfilling that competitive side of me, and you can do it to make a living out of it. It’s really fun competing against players who’ve taken to it the same way I have and are trying to win.”
Frazier has a bright future ahead of him in the PPA and MLP, and we can’t wait to see what’s next for him. Be sure to catch his upcoming matches at the PPA Newport Beach Shootout next week, you don’t want to miss them!
We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!
Let us improve this post!
Tell us how we can improve this post?