August 2022 has been a busy month for professional pickleball. In the last two weeks alone, there were two pickleball tournaments—one on the APP Tour on the east coast of the United States, the other on the PPA Tour on the west coast. Although these two pickleball tournaments were hosted by two different tours, in two very different places, and largely featured very different players in the medal rounds, the two actually had similar outcomes.
Let’s dive in and explain…
APP New Jersey Open in Hamilton Township, New Jersey
First up, the APP Tour hosted its New Jersey Open in Hamilton Township, New Jersey. The big takeaways from this pickleball tournament include:
- JW Johnson grabbed the triple crown, winning each of men’s singles, men’s doubles (with his partner Dekel Bar), and mixed doubles (with his partner Simone Jardim). After a bit of downward slide in men’s singles over the summer months, Johnson bounced back to retake the #1 spot (defeating Federico Staksrud in the men’s singles final). Johnson and Bar also seem to have figured out a winning strategy in men’s doubles, as they defeated Kyle Yates and Dylan Frazier in the final.
- Keeping it in the family, JW Johnson’s sister, Jorja Johnson, snagged two silver medals on the weekend—one in women’s singles and one in women’s doubles (with partner Anna Bright). In fact, every medal match on the APP Tour’s Championship Sunday featured a Johnson sibling.
- Dylan Frazier also took home two silver medals, while Anna Bright took home a medal in each event with two silvers and a bronze. Bright and Frazier played together in mixed doubles, grabbing a silver medal. Then, Frazier took silver in men’s doubles (with his partner Kyle Yates), while Bright grabbed silver with Jorja Johnson in women’s doubles and a bronze in women’s singles.
- Salome Devidze bested Jorja Johnson on the day in women’s singles. However, on her road to gold, Devidze seemed to be solidifying a reputation of making some tough line calls. Fellow pro players have even started to call line judges out for matches against her.
- Lauren Stratman and Vivienne David were the women’s doubles gold medalists. Their opponents, Johnson and Bright, made it quite close, as they forced the game to 15 in the gold medal match. However, Stratman and David held on for the gold (winning 15-5).
- Shoutout to the remaining bronze medalists on the weekend:
- Men’s Singles: John Cincola
- Men’s Doubles: Joey Farias and Rafa Hewett
- Mixed Doubles: DJ Young and Corrine Carr
- Women’s Doubles: Susannah Barr and Maggie Remynse
PPA Tournament of Champions in Brigham City, Utah
Heading across the country, one of the original “big three” pickleball tournaments took place in Brigham City, Utah. The Tournament of Champions was one of the original prize money pickleball tournaments for the pros, and has long been considered one of the “majors,” alongside the USA Pickleball National Championships in Indian Wells, California, and US Open Pickleball Championships in Naples, Florida. The Tournament of Champions has now joined the PPA Tour for the 2022 calendar year.
The Tournament of Champions is set in the mountains of Utah, meaning that the pickleball can play games in the altitude. This is particularly true in windy conditions. The 2022 Tournament of Champions had both—altitude and wind—leading to challenging conditions and a lot of wild serves and returns of serves on the pickleball courts.
Some pro players and teams persevered despite the elements. The main takeaways from the marquee event include:
- Anna Leigh Waters grabbed the triple crown at the 2022 Tournament of Champions. However, she did not just win each of the events she played in; she absolutely dominated each of the events she played in. Anna Leigh did not drop a single game in the entire week of competitive pickleball (whether in women’s singles, women’s doubles (with her mother and partner Leigh Waters), or mixed doubles (with her partner Ben Johns)—in fact, she did not even give up more than 5 points in any given game in mixed doubles). #mindblowing
- Ben Johns set the stage to mirror Anna Leigh’s triple crown, but fell short in an exciting men’s doubles final, featuring a ton of speed-ups and hands battles against Matt Wright and Riley Newman. Wright and Newman played high-speed, intense pickleball to take the championship in four games (as a reminder, the PPA Tour does a best of 5 game final) over Ben Johns and his brother, Collin Johns. Ben Johns still claimed three medals on the weekend—two golds (in mixed doubles and men’s singles) and a silver (in men’s doubles).
- Utah native Callie Smith seemed to be the fan favorite on the weekend, and Smith put on a show for her hometown crowd. Smith snagged two silver medals (one in women’s doubles with her partner Lucy Kovalova and one in mixed doubles with AJ Koller), only being bested by Anna Leigh Waters on her “perfect” weekend.
- Three pro pickleball players medaled in back-to-back weekends on both pro tours: Dylan Frazier (who took home silver in a tough field of men’s singles) and Vivienne David and Susannah Barr (who grabbed the bronze medal in women’s doubles, meaning they took home medals on both tours with different partners).
- Shoutout to the other medalists on the weekend, which included:
- Lea Jansen and Irina Tereschenko, who took home the silver medal and bronze medal, respectively, in women’s singles.
- Hunter Johnson grabbed the bronze medal in men’s singles.
- Jay Devilliers and Jessie Irvine took the bronze in mixed doubles.
- Callan Dawson had another strong showing after not losing a match at the PPA Skechers Invitational. Dawson grabbed bronze in men’s doubles with his partner (and Utah native) Tyler Loong.
Multiple Triple Crowns for South Florida Teens
As noted above, these were two different pickleball tournaments on two different tours in two different parts of the country. However, the headlining story in both events was a triple crown by either JW Johnson or Anna Leigh Waters—both teenage phenoms from South Florida (there must be something in the water!).
Taking a look back at the 2022 calendar year, triple crowns have been a theme for these two. JW Johnson has claimed four triple crowns of the APP Tour, including at the Delray Beach Open, South Carolina Open, USA Pickleball Newport Beach Championships, and the New Jersey Open. Anna Leigh Waters has claimed three triple crowns on the PPA Tour, including the Riverland Open, Red Rock Open, and Tournament of Champions. And, you cannot talk about triple crowns without also including Ben Johns, who also has three on the year so far (which include the PPA Arizona Grand Slam, PPA Red Rock Open, and US Open Pickleball Championships).
Looking forward, it will be interesting to see if one or all of these pro players can accelerate to more triple crowns. With JW Johnson playing the APP Tour and rarely playing the PPA Tour, which is played exclusively by Ben Johns, a match up against the two seems unlikely in the near term. So, both players could have triple crown success—although Matt Wright and Riley Newman look to be strong blocker for the Johns brothers in men’s doubles, winning the last two tournament match-ups.
On the women’s side, Anna Leigh Waters looks to only be getting stronger and stronger—particularly, with her absolutely dominant performance (not dropping a game) at the Tournament of Champions. Plus, with her strong partnerships with Ben Johns and her mother Leigh Waters, Anna Leigh could be on the verge of a big run through year end. This is especially true if Anna Leigh and Leigh can continue to “figure out” Lucy Kovalova and Callie Smith, and if Anna Leigh can best Parris Todd on the women’s singles side (as Todd won the most recent match up and will be looking to return to the pickleball court after getting injured at the latest Major League Pickleball event).
One thing seems for certain though… more triple crowns will certainly be returning to South Florida with the teenage phenoms.