Just a week ago, the professional pickleball world was in shock from the unexpected breakup between the PPA and MLP. The uncertainty surrounding the implications of the new player contracts for the remainder of 2023 left everyone in suspense.
Fortunately, things are proceeding as planned.
All The Top Pros
This weekend’s PPA Baird Wealth Management Open in Cincinnati is drawing all the top pros, regardless of their affiliation with the PPA or MLP. Expect to see a blend of familiar teams and intriguing new partnerships that have the potential to add some excitement to the mix.
Notably, Ben Johns is on the verge of securing his 100th match win, while both he and Anna Leigh Waters will be on the hunt for another triple crown.
As we look toward the landscape of 2024, a lingering question looms: Will anyone step up to challenge Johns and Waters, especially with more than half of their usual competition shifting to MLP?
This is the first tournament following the bombshell news, so it will be interesting to see how it unfolds.
Here’s my take on the tournament:
In every PPA tournament, we encounter the same large men’s singles draw, and each time, it unveils a new breakout star. Although there have been calls to exclude singles from a standard tournament weekend, and these arguments hold merit, this year has gifted us with a series of thrilling upsets and unexpected outcomes that are often missing in other events.
Jaume Martinez Vich, fresh off a gold medal win at the APP Chicago Open, may have newfound confidence to bring to Cincinnati.
Federico Stakstrud has grappled with a string of challenging and disheartening defeats, undoubtedly fueling his determination to return to Championship Sunday.
Ben Johns and Tyson McGuffin squared off in the gold medal match at the PPA Kansas City Open. While there were uncertainties about whether this classic matchup would be on hold for a while, they could face each other once more this weekend.
Anna Leigh Waters currently reigns supreme in the singles game, but this tournament marks the first potential encounter with Hurricane Tyra Black, the last player to hand her a defeat.
Black has surged through the women’s field this year, showcasing immense potential and earning the accolades she rightfully deserves. She symbolizes the emerging talent that could one day dethrone Waters.
That said, Black’s recent signing with MLP may limit her opportunities to prove herself against the world’s #1 player in the future.
An Outstanding Performance
Catherine Parenteau clinched a silver medal at the PPA Kansas City Open, solidifying her position as the undisputed #2 female singles player, especially with Lea Janses no longer participating in singles.
It’s safe to expect that she will face Waters in the finals. However, it’s worth noting that Jorja Johnson delivered an outstanding performance in Kansas City, giving Parenteau a tough challenge in the semi-finals.
With Johnson back in the draw this weekend, we’ll eagerly watch to see if she can replicate her bronze medal success with a silver or gold.
Ben Johns and Anna Leigh Waters strive for triple crowns in every tournament they enter together, with mixed doubles almost ensuring at least one of those crowns (they’ve suffered only one loss this year).
Riley Newman and Jessie Irvine reunite on the court this weekend, driven by the desire for redemption following their crushing defeat at the hands of Waters and Johns during the Kansas City Open (11-2, 11-1, 11-1).
To reach Championship Sunday again, they’ll have to navigate a formidable field of opponents, and for Newman, this might represent one of his final opportunities to best Johns, given his signing with Major League Pickleball.
Gabe Tardio and Milan Rane, who had a breakthrough performance as a team in Kansas City, faced some skeptics who attributed their string of upsets to distractions among other players. This tournament offers them the chance to show that they are capable of securing significant victories at any given event.
Tina Pisnik and Martin Emmrich are riding high after their impressive gold medal victory at the APP Chicago Open, as well as Pisnik’s semi-final appearance at the PPA Kansas City Open. It’s always interesting to watch how the leading APP players perform on the PPA tour, and this dynamic duo is a team to keep your eyes on.
Ben and Collin Johns are the favorites in every tournament, but JW Johnson and Dylan Frazier are hot on their heels.
As the undisputed #2 men’s doubles team in the world, defeating the Johns represents one of the last unconquered summits in their careers. Johnson and Frazier both took their time deciding between MLP and the PPA during the split, and some speculated it may have been because of their reluctance to give up on achieving that lofty goal.
With the future of both leagues uncertain, Johnson and Frazier need to play their best pickleball before it’s too late.
Riley Newman has been exploring new partnerships over the past few months in pursuit of securing another gold medal in men’s doubles. He hasn’t seen the results he expected, and like Johnson and Frazier, Newman may not have many more chances left.
This weekend, Newman is teaming up with Thomas Wilson, whom I suggested as his best option when his split with Matt Wright was first announced. I can’t help but feel a personal stake in the outcome this weekend as I wonder if my initial assessment was correct.
The outlook for women’s doubles on the PPA tour appears rather dim at the moment. Anna Leigh Waters has maintained an undefeated streak with both of her partners, Anna Bright and Catherine Parenteau, throughout the year, and the expectation is that Waters and Parenteau will clinch yet another gold this weekend.
Waters has effectively teamed up with the #2 and #3 women’s doubles players, ensuring not only her own gold medals but also hindering them from forming potentially competitive long-term partnerships.
Looking ahead to 2024, as many top female pros transition to MLP, the possibility of another year of Waters’ unbeaten run looms large. Bright, for example, is a player who could challenge Waters with the right partner and enough time to nurture their chemistry.
At the PPA Kansas City Open, Bright and Megan Dizon secured silver medals and held their own against Waters and Parenteau. This was only their first tournament together, making it intriguing to see if they could achieve even better results in their second.
Read more of our coverage of PPA events by clicking here.
We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!
Let us improve this post!
Tell us how we can improve this post?