So, it’s been pretty much business as usual at the PPA Tour’s Vulcan Kansas City Open, although we have seen the rise of a few unfancied players as well. This is all proof of pickleball’s engaging unpredictability and its liking for throwing up giant killers on a regular basis.
In the mixed doubles final, it’s set to be a showdown between the No. 1 and No. 2 teams. The presence of Ben Johns and Anna Leigh Waters or Riley Newman and Jessie Irvine usually guarantees a formidable challenge.
These pairs have consistently demonstrated their dominance, making them clear favorites. As anticipated, they flexed their muscles on Friday and advanced confidently through their respective brackets.
Yet, an intriguing narrative emerges if we delve deeper and examine the semifinals. While the top-seeded teams exerted their influence, the underdogs seized their moment to shine.
Mixed-doubles pairing Milan Rane and Gabe Tardio shared their perspective: “You try not to think about them and who they are.”
Impressively, Rane and Tardio, seeded 30th, secured a place in the semi-final. On their way, they clinched victories over Parenteau and McGuffin, Patrick Smith and Irina Tereschenko, and Dylan Frazier and Andrea Koop in a thrilling match that finished 10-12, 11-5, 11-9.
Their journey to the PPA semifinal was marked by victories against formidable opponents, including Catherine Parenteau and Tyson McGuffin, recent triple crown winners at the Tournament of Champions in Utah.
Joint Training Sessions
Rane expressed his elation: “It’s amazing. All my friends in South Florida have had tons of success, and I’ve been waiting and waiting. I thought it would be my time soon, and it looks like it is. I’m happy about that.”
The synergy between Rane and Tardio was nurtured in Florida through joint training sessions with other professionals, including J.W. and Jorja Johnson.
This consistent competitive environment not only enhances skills but also readies players for high-stakes encounters against formidable opponents.
A Relatively Novel Achievement
Travis Rettenmaier, paired with Jade Kawamoto on the opposite side of the bracket, shared his perspective: “They’re great players, but not intimidating one bit.”
Reflecting on his background of competing against prominent individuals, Rettenmaier considered such matches as part of his routine.
While Rettenmaier and Kawamoto both hold silver and bronze medals on the PPA Tour, making it to Championship Court appearances and semifinals was a relatively novel achievement for them.
Nevertheless, their performance on Friday exuded confidence. As the 13th seed, they overcame established names, including Callan Dawson and Mary Brascia, James Ignatowich, and Anna Bright, and Brendon Long and Bobbi Oshiro before earning the opportunity to face Johns and Waters.
“The Goal Is To Have Fun”
Kawamoto expressed her evolution: “It’s getting more comfortable each time. The pressure isn’t on us. The goal is to have fun and play our best.”
With a relaxed demeanor prevailing, there was room for humor and camaraderie. Rettenmaier quipped, “Mostly at her [Jade’s] expense,” highlighting the lighthearted interactions.
Rettenmaier emphasized his gratitude for the opportunity to compete while enjoying the experience: “I just appreciate being able to play and enjoying myself. If the results come, great. If they don’t, no problem. I’m just trying to do my best with the age I am and the skill set I have.”
The outcomes crystallized on Friday, as Kawamoto and Rettenmaier secured the bronze, triumphing over Tardio and Rane by 11-2, 11-13, 11-9 in a closely contested match.
Kawamoto humorously recounted the pairing process: “I feel like I was a great second choice since Travis texted Jackie first. But she already had a partner, so I’m glad it worked out. We keep it light and fun, and there’s a little less pressure when you can gel well with your partner.”
Our own Jane Hollon will be providing an in-depth review of the tournament in the next few days – don’t miss it!
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