In just two weekends, pro pickleball put on three shows:
- APP Atlanta Metro Open in Atlanta, Georgia (which was also a USA Pickleball National Qualifier)
- PPA Baird Wealth Management Open in Cincinnati, Ohio
- PPA Peachtree Classic in Peachtree City, Georgia
In the first of the two weekends (September 7-11, 2022), the dueling pickleball tours of the PPA Tour and APP Tour went head-to-head, not only with each other, but also with mother nature, as rain delayed and/or threatened play in both Ohio and Georgia. Nevertheless, both tours were able to pull it off to showcase the talent on the court. And, the PPA Tour tried to level up its show and broadcast with (i) large video screens lining the court to “pump up” the crowd; and (ii) a new camera angle on either side of the pickleball net to give a different perspective for the on-court action.
Heading into the second of its back-to-back weekends (September 15-18, 2022), the PPA Tour issued a major announcement in that it will host a new team format event at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas in December 2022 with $175,000 up for grabs. This announcement was on the heels of a pickleball-themed commercial promoting MGM gambling with Barry Sanders and Jamie Foxx, as well as the PPA Tour announcing a partnership with Draft Kings. These events could all be hinting at gambling hitting the sport of pickleball, which could mean significantly more eyeballs (and money) pouring into the game.
Let’s breakdown the pickleball action…
Golden Tickets in Atlanta, as JW Johnson & Simone Jardim Pull Out Gold (Twice) & Megan Fudge Gets First Gold Medal
At the APP Atlanta Metro Open, the pro pickleball players in attendance had to not only battle each other, but also the rain, rain delays, and changing formats, which all led to long days on the pickleball court. In the end, it was similar names that were up and down the podiums in each of the pro pickleball brackets, as JW Johnson, Dekel Bar, Simone Jardim, Parris Todd, Jorja Johnson, and Dylan Frazier each took home at least two medals each.
- Women’s Singles – Shoutout to Megan Fudge, who completed the “double dip” in the “if necessary” game to 15 and claimed her first gold medal, defeating young gun Jorja Johnson in the championship match. Mary Brascia came away with the bronze medal.
- Men’s Singles – In another rematch of Federico Staksrud and JW Johnson for the men’s singles title, it was Staksrud that got the best of Johnson again. While Staksrud claimed gold, Johnson had to settle for silver, and Dylan Frazier snagged the bronze.
- Women’s Doubles – The rain pushed women’s doubles into Sunday, which was originally reserved only for the championship matches. As a result, the women who were in other finals (e.g., Simone Jardim and Parris Todd) had long days on the court, as they had to play the entire women’s bracket, as well as their other finals. With that said, it was the women in other finals that still came out victorious, despite extra play and having to “double dip” their opponents, as Simone Jardim and Parris Todd teamed up to take gold over Andrea Koop and Jorja Johnson. And, congrats to the Utah natives, Etta Wright and Susannah Barr, who took home the bronze.
- Men’s Doubles – Men’s doubles was all about JW Johnson and Dekel Bar, who defeated Zane Navratil and Andrei Daescu in the championship. And, congrats to Stefan Auvergne and Brendon Long for battling through the back draw for bronze.
- Mixed Doubles – Mixed doubles was a battle between gender doubles partners, as Simone Jardim and JW Johnson had a tough match against their gender doubles partners, Parris Todd and Dekel Bar. Despite a draining day, Jardim and Johnson pulled off the close victory. And, shoutout to Dylan Frazier and Jorja Johnson for taking the bronze, which was Jorja’s third medal on the weekend (to match her older brother, JW).
Anna Bright & Jessie Irvine Breakthrough, While the Johnson Bros Snag the Podium & Yana Grechkina Gets Her First PPA Medal
Cincinnati, Ohio was a breath of fresh air for the PPA Tour, as a few upsets allowed new faces to shine. Although there were a few fresh faces, there were also a couple lopsided finals that favored the usual names. Oh, and the sport of pickleball had its first on-court streaker...
- Men’s Singles – The men’s singles final featured Tyson McGuffin versus Hunter Johnson, which is a new face for a PPA Championship Sunday (as the usual face and #2 seed, Ben Johns went down early in the bracket). Johnson put up a fight, but the #1 seed, McGuffin, claimed gold. And, shoutout to Hunter Johnson’s twin brother, Yates Johnson, for battling through the backdraw to grab the bronze medal.
- Men’s Doubles – The last several PPA Tour men’s doubles match-ups have been between Ben and Collin Johns and Matt Wright and Riley Newman. However, with Riley Newman missing in action to throw the first pitch at the Pickleball Night at the Seattle Mariners baseball game, a new championship showdown was meant to happen. Championship Sunday still featured the Johns brothers, but their competitors would be Tyson McGuffin and Jay Devilliers (which was nice to see McGuffin and Devilliers breakthrough, as their partnership has not been as successful in terms of podiums as they may have hoped). However, it was the Johns brothers that would claim the gold medal. Shoutout to Callan Dawson and Tyler Loong on the snagging up the bronze.
- Women’s Singles – Anna Leigh Waters reigned supreme in the women’s singles draw, as she did not lose a game on her route to the gold medal. Lea Jansen came up short in the final and had to settle for silver, while Salome Devidze snagged the bronze, but not before some heated requests for line judges in an earlier match against Jansen.
- Women’s Doubles – Women’s doubles featured a breakthrough for Anna Bright and Jessie Irvine. The two had not played on Championship Sunday together on the PPA Tour, but they seemed to figure out their winning strategy in Cincinnati, as Bright and Irvine took down the tough Team Waters (Leigh and Anna Leigh Waters) in the semi-finals and then another tough team in Catherine Parenteau (Irvine's former women's doubles partner) and Lea Jansen in the finals. And, shoutout to the Kawamoto twins—Jade and Jackie—for a strong performance in claiming the bronze medal.
- Mixed Doubles – Ben Johns and Anna Leigh Waters seem unbeatable in mixed doubles, as they did not lose a game on their run for the gold medal. In fact, in the three-game final (as a reminder, Championship Sunday on the PPA Tour features a best 3 out of 5 game format), Johns and Waters only gave up 10 points over 3 games. Jessie Irvine and Jay Devilliers had to settle for silver (which was each of their second medal on the day). And, huge shoutout to Thomas Wilson and Yana Grechkina for taking home the bronze medal, which was Grechkina’s first medal on the PPA Tour.
Triple Crown in Peachtree City Makes 5 Golds for Anna Leigh Waters in 2 Weeks
In the previous weekend at the PPA Open in Cincinnati, Anna Leigh Waters played 6 games to win 2 gold medals. At the PPA Peachtree Classic in Peachtree City, Anna Leigh Waters had to play 13 games to win 3 gold medals and the coveted triple crown—that is A LOT of games (and a lot of cash winnings)! The day before, after winning the women’s bracket semi-final to claim her third ticket to Championship Sunday, Waters even hinted that she could play a total of 15 games and was going to rest and eat up to prepare (which seemed to work for her). She even hopefully hinted at a Championship “Weekend” instead of only a Championship “Sunday.” However, not many other players have the same problem she has—playing in too many finals matches. In the past two weekends, only Ben Johns and JW Johnson have matched her medal count of 5 (although not all in the same color as gold), so Anna Leigh seems to be in a class of her own. Big congrats to the triple crown winner (who can hopefully get some more rest and good food to recover)!
- Men’s Singles – More fresh faces donned Championship Sunday in the men’s single bracket, as Julian Arnold defeated Ben Johns in the semi-final to make it to the finals. However, Arnold would have to face off against JW Johnson, who proved too much for Arnold. Johnson took home the championship, while Arnold claimed the silver medal. Despite the semi-final defeat, though, Ben Johns battled through the backdraw (which he is known to perform poorly in) to claim the bronze medal.
- Men’s Doubles – The usual faces were back on Championship Sunday, as Ben and Collin Johns faced off against Matt Wright and Riley Newman. Despite getting the best of the Johns brothers in the previous match-ups, Wright and Newman fell short. The Johns brothers reclaimed the upper hand and grabbed the gold medal. And, shoutout to the young guns JW Johnson and Dylan Frazier for making their way through the backdraw and winning the bronze medal.
- Women’s Singles – Anna Leigh Waters coasted to the finals in the women’s singles bracket, but faced a really tough Callie Smith in the championship match. Despite close points and close games, Waters was able to pull out the victory and Smith had to settle for silver. And, Anna Bright—who has been on a tear with Jessie Irvine in women’s doubles—played solid to win the bronze medal.
- Women’s Doubles – The women’s doubles bracket featured a rematch of a semi-final upset at the PPA Open in Cincinnati, as Team Waters (Leigh and Anna Leigh Waters) played Cincinnati winners Jessie Irvine and Anna Bright. After Cincinnati, Leigh Waters (Anna Leigh’s mother and doubles partner) admitted that she didn’t play well and when her level drops, it will be time for Anna Leigh to find a new doubles partner. However, in just one week’s time, Leigh Waters proved her level isn’t dropping any time soon and helped her team (and daughter) grab the gold medal in a 5-game thriller. Irvine and Bright still seem to have figured their strategy out, as they played solid and took home the silver. And, shoutout to the #1 seed Lucy Kovalova and Callie Smith for battling for the bronze.
- Mixed Doubles – Anna Leigh Waters and Ben Johns capped off their weekend with another gold medal in mixed doubles—this time, against Catherine Parenteau and Riley Newman (who had to settle for his second silver medal to Ben Johns on the day). Jessie Irvine and Jay Devilliers held on to their podium status from Cincinnati to grab the bronze medal.