The PPA OGIO Newport Beach Doubles Shootout was a wild ride from start to finish. We saw some really special moments for pro pickleball, such as the Johnson siblings winning their first gold medal together, but we also saw a few incidents of controversy.
Pablo Tellez was at the center of one of the tournament’s more controversial moments. The PPA Tour just released a statement announcing that Tellez was fined “for directing an obscene hand gesture at a group of fans on Saturday, April 22nd.”
During his round of 16 match in men’s doubles, Tellez and doubles partner Federico Staksrud went up against James Ignatowich and Tyson McGuffin. Throughout the match, a group of fans were consistently heckling the players to the point where Head Referee Don Stanley had to intervene on several occasions and even warned crowd members that they would be removed if the distractions continued.
After scoring the match-winning point in game three, Tellez walked over near the crowd members who had been heckling him and Staksrud the most and exchanged words with them. During the highly emotional moment, Tellez pointed at the fans, made “all talk” hand gestures at them, and gave one of them the middle finger.
Event staff members were able to intervene before things could escalate any further and removed the group of fans from the court. Tellez made a short statement about the altercation during a later post-match interview after winning the bronze medal match.
“I think it was a very heated match, a lot of emotions on both sides,” said Tellez. “I apologize to everyone. I shouldn’t have reacted the way I did, and I’ll do better in the future.”
One of our team members, Jane Hollon, was at the match and got the chance to speak with Tellez shortly afterward. Tellez spoke highly of his fellow competitors Ignatowich and McGuffin and stated that he and Staksrud were able to use the crowd’s energy as fuel for their victory.
As a spectator, Hollon had never seen hecklers get that out of control before. She explained that they said some extremely inappropriate things, screamed before serves, and ultimately created an incredibly uncomfortable environment for everyone present.
While Hollon thinks that pro pickleball benefits from the crowd’s high energy level and should be interactive to some degree, the hecklers at this match had crossed a line with what they were saying and how they were directly interrupting the match. It’s one thing to cheer for your favorite player or make playful jabs at the opposing team, but it should never reach a point where the actual gameplay of a match is impacted.
We were able to reach out to Tellez and get more of his thoughts on the matter:
“There were a few people that were crossing the line when it comes to heckling and disrespectful comments. They were the ones yelling line calls, and any time during the match that I was close to them they would say something. I asked Don Stanley to remove them multiple times, you can see it in the stream, but he said he couldn’t do anything about it unless he could hear them being disrespectful. Anyways, me and Fede stayed focused, the match ended, and I let out my emotions in a bad way which I am very sorry about.”Pablo Tellez
When asked about the PPA’s response to the situation, Tellez thinks that they handled the situation well. Tellez takes full responsibility for his actions and accepts the fine as a necessary consequence for those actions.
“The PPA had a great response to the incident. They made sure I was fine, Stepped in as soon as they saw the guy close to me, and assured me those people weren’t allowed in the tournament anymore. I think that the fine was expected and necessary; we definitely don’t want the players overreacting to situations like that.Pablo Tellez
As is true of any sport, pickleball’s pro athletes are passionate about the game they play, and learning to deal with one’s emotions while on the court comes with the territory. After having some time to consider how he reacted to the situation, it seems like Tellez is determined to move forward and use this experience to grow as a player.
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