We go from last week’s USA Pickleball National Championships right back into the PPA Tour’s race to the PPA Finals, which go down at the end of the month! This weekend’s Hertz Gold Cup, hosted at the legendary Pictona at Holly Hill in Holly Hill, Florida, is the last chance for players to earn themselves a spot in the biggest PPA tournament of the year.
Essentially, “The Race” to the finals allows the top 8 players in each singles category will qualify for the PPA Finals, and the top 16 players in doubles will be eligible for doubles competition at the Finals. So, who’s going to make it?? Let’s take a look at each event for the Hertz Gold Cup and see who has a shot at qualifying!
Kicking things off, we have men’s singles! It goes without saying that Ben Johns, the number 1 athlete in pro pickleball, has secured his spot in the PPA Finals. But beyond aiming for a podium finish, who will be fighting to make top 8?
Looking at the PPA’s men’s singles rankings, it appears as though the top 7 players should theoretically have a firm lock on their positions going into the Finals event, leaving 8-seed Pablo Tellez on the cusp of being knocked out. Tellez has played incredibly well in singles this year, though I think his silver medal back at PPA Red Rock back in April was his most recent finals finish.
Tellez needs another huge finish to hold onto his spot, but he has some competition at his doorstep. Dylan Frazier is the 9-seed, and is a mere 300 points below Tellez, meaning if he can podium with Tellez missing the semis, Frazier would assume that eighth spot in the finals race. Fortunately for both Tellez and Frazier, the 10th and 11th seeds, Julian Arnold and James Ignatowich, will not play this weekend, meaning they are eliminated from the playoff picture.
Unlike men’s singles, women’s singles is already pretty much locked into its top eight for the Finals. The only possible way this changes is if the 10th-ranked Jorja Johnson takes gold and 8th-place Lina Padegimaite completely folds in the first round. While we love how Johnson has grown this year, the likelihood of this happening is highly improbable.
However, that doesn’t mean this won’t be an exciting tournament! Of course, Anna Leigh Waters is likely to take her side of the bracket, though we’d love to see her face off against Jorja in the quarterfinals just to see if Johnson has a chance at making it into the final event of the season.
On the other side of the bracket, we see APP superstar Salome Devidze take the 2-seed position. She will have some steep competition though, likely going up against the likes of Mary Brascia or Lauren Stratman in the semis.
Anna Leigh Waters and Ben Johns seem to have a lock on mixed doubles this year, but is there a team that could possibly take them down? Because the top 8 men and top 8 women in mixed will make it to the finals, the field is a bit less easy to determine and the points have more narrow margins, which gives some lesser-ranked players a shot at making the finals.
Anna Bright and James Ignatowich have been one of our favorite teams all year, and we fully expect to see them play together in the PPA Finals. However, Poppa Jimmy is taking the Hertz Gold Cup off, meaning that Bright will be partnering with Andreas Siljestrom, a tennis pro who’s been making the rounds in pro pickleball and was recently drafted by the Los Angeles Mad Drops in the MLP. It’ll be interesting to see how the two fair – nothing’s at stake for Bright as the number 2-ranked women’s player in mixed, but we’re excited to see her play nonetheless!
For gendered doubles, as it is the best 16 players from both men’s and women’s, the points are pretty spread out. This leaves room for a handful of players in the 17-20 rankings to have a shot at breaking into the top 16.
In men’s doubles, the Johns Brothers have a firm lead in the rankings, followed closely by a few of our other favorite teams: Dylan Frazier & JW Johnson, Federico Staksrud & Pablo Tellez, Tyson McGuffin & James Ignatowich. The teams to watch that are on the cusp of breaking into the top sixteen are that of Christian Alshon & Connor Garnett, Tyler Loong & DJ Young, and Callan Dawson & Hayden Patriquin.
Of those teams, we believe that Alshon and Garnett have the highest likelihood of reaching the finals, though Loong is partnering up with Young, who has proven himself a top competitor in men’s doubles with his current ranking being 11th. However, Dawson and Patriquin both played especially well at MLP Dallas and made a quarterfinal run together at the National Championships, so they could have a chance at blowing up this weekend.
Of all the events this weekend, women’s doubles feels the most volatile in the sense that there could be a lot of movement seen in the bottom-ranked players in the Finals Race. We think that everything is pretty much locked up through the 13 seed with Irina Tereschenko, who has an impressive 6,000 points, but 14-20 feels like a complete toss-up!
While the Brascia sisters unfortunately don’t appear to have enough points to make it to the Finals, we do expect to see them make a run for the finals in Pictona! The two earned a silver medal at last weekend’s National Championships, where they face off against some of pro pickleball’s best women’s teams. We would love to see them make a podium finish at their last PPA event of 2023.
Jorja Johnson is right on the cusp of breaking into the top 16, and she’ll be partnering up with the 8-ranked women’s doubles player, Meghan Dizon. I don’t think we’ve seen the two play together yet this year, so we’re eager to see how they do and if Jorja can score enough points to make her way into the top 16!
The last team we want to point out is that of Lauren Stratman and Allyce Jones. Stratman is on the cusp of breaking into the top 16, and with the 6-ranked Jones at her side, she definitely has a shot at making a deep playoff run this weekend!
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