Over the last eight days, approximately 2,300 pickleball players (ages 8 to 85 years old) competed at the 2022 USA Pickleball National Championships at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California. These amateurs and pros alike all competed for the coveted title of “national champion.”
Along the way through the weeklong event:
- Fans packed in to the largest pickleball stadium that we have seen at Indian Wells to date, as seating was upwards of 5,000 in the main stadium.
- The Pickleball Hall of Fame inducted four new members: Norm Davis, Pat Kane, Larry Moon, and Wes Gabrielsen.
- Pickleball hit ESPN’s SportsCenter’s Top 10 for the second time in just the past few months, as Jay Devilliers hit an incredibly smooth behind-the-back winner during the pro mixed doubles bracket.
- Pro players and senior pro players teamed up to compete in split age doubles brackets.
- Fans got to see some new pairings in the pro brackets (such as first-time partnership Anna Leigh Waters and Riley Newman)—whether due to scheduling or injuries.
No one, however, had a better Nationals than the #1 seed, 15-year-old Anna Leigh Waters, who is continuously separating herself from the pack.
Anna Leigh Waters Takes Gold in Women’s Singles
Nationals started with the singles events for the pro players. Anna Leigh made quick work to get to Championship Sunday, and then to win the championship (which each gold medal match featured a best 3 out of 5 game format). In fact, Anna Leigh did not even lose a game throughout the bracket.
First-Time Partnership Makes a Comeback for Gold
Turning to women’s doubles, Anna Leigh lost her usual partner—her mother, Leigh Waters—to injury during bracket play for mixed doubles. Although Anna Leigh seemed to be having knee pain in a previous recent tournament, it was Leigh that tweaked her knee when going for a backhanded poach on the courts with her partner Tyson McGuffin. This injury landed Leigh off the court and in a wheelchair to recover. As a result, Catherine Parenteau moved to fill the spot to play with Anna Leigh. This move required Parenteau to drop her partner Allyce Jones in order to play with Anna Leigh, leaving Jones without a partner to play with at Nationals, and resulting in quite a bit of controversy that was aired out and discussed over social media by pros and fans alike.
Parenteau and Waters found themselves in Championship Sunday, without losing a match in bracket play. They would face Jessie Irvine and Anna Bright, who were looking for revenge from not only defeat the day before, but also likely some bad blood from previous events (as Irvine and Parenteau were former partners with some history between them).
The championship match was quite the marathon. Irvine and Bright took an early 2-game lead in the best of 5 (including a claw-back victory to take game 2 after being down 8-2). (To note, these were the only two games that Anna Leigh lost during the entire event.) However, Parenteau and Waters kept swinging, tweaked their strategy, and eventually won the next three games to win the championship (7-11, 9-11, 11-9, 11-4, 11-4).
This series of events could be a glimpse into the future, with Anna Leigh partnering with someone outside of the family. However, we are hoping that Leigh Waters will have a quick and speedy recovery to get back out onto the pickleball courts as the mother-daughter duo. Get well soon, Leigh!
New Partnership Brings the Firepower
In mixed doubles, Anna Leigh hit the courts for the first-time with top pro player (and defending mixed doubles National Champion) Riley Newman, which was her second new partnership on the week. Although the two had never played together, they never lost a game and they may have been even more impressive than the partnership of Ben Johns and Anna Leigh Waters.
The championship match for mixed doubles featured Newman and Waters versus their usual mixed doubles partners—Ben Johns and Catherine Parenteau. This match may have been one of the most exciting, lopsided matches that we have seen. This is because two players were vying for triple crowns—both Waters and Johns—and this best 3 out of 5 game final lasted only 30 minutes, as Newman and Waters played straight-up (i.e., little to no stacking), aggressive, quick, offensive points. In the 11-3, 11-0, 11-3 route to victory (to help Newman successfully defend his title and secure the triple crown for Waters), Newman and Waters went on a 20-point run that was unanswered by Johns and Parenteau.
The Newman-Waters duo was nothing short of pure firepower.
Triple Crown for Anna Leigh Waters
Needless to say, but if you win all singles, gender doubles, and mixed doubles, then you win the triple crown, which is exactly what Anna Leigh Waters did. She only dropped two games on the entire weekend in her run for the triple crown. Now, Anna Leigh is a 6-time National Champion at the age of 15, which includes a 3-peat in women’s doubles and back-to-back champion in women’s singles.
Ben Johns Comes Up Just Short of the Triple Crown
Although Anna Leigh stole the show, Ben Johns also had a great event and came up just shy of the triple crown (as he grabbed two gold medals and one silver medal). Ben Johns fought through a tough men’s singles bracket to make it to Championship Sunday, defeating the fiery Julian Arnold in 4 games. He also teamed up with his usual men’s doubles partner—his older brother Collin Johns.
After losing early in bracket play, the Johns brothers had to battle their way back through the back draw. The Johns brothers faced familiar foes Matt Wright and Riley Newman in the bronze medal match, who they defeated to come all the way back to Championship Sunday, where they would face JW Johnson and Dekel Bar. However, to win the gold, the Johns brothers would have to defeat Johnson and Bar in the best 3 out of 5 games and then also in a game to 15. In other words, the Johns brothers would have to “double-dip” in the Nationals true double-elimination format. And, this is exactly what the Johns brothers did (11-7, 11-4, 11-5, 15-6), as they claimed the national championship.
Congratulations to all of the medalists, National Champions, and triple crown winners!
- Gold: Anna Leigh Waters
- Silver: Lea Jansen
- Bronze: Salome Devidze
- Gold: Ben Johns
- Silver: Julian Arnold
- Bronze: Tyson McGuffin
- Gold: Anna Leigh Waters & Catherine Parenteau
- Silver: Jessie Irvine & Anna Bright
- Bronze: Parris Todd & Lauren Stratman
- Gold: Ben Johns & Collin Johns
- Silver: JW Johnson & Dekel Bar
- Bronze: Matt Wright & Riley Newman
- Gold: Anna Leigh Waters & Riley Newman
- Silver: Catherine Parenteau & Ben Johns
- Bronze: Parris Todd & JW Johnson
Even with the rising number of pickleball tournaments (including premier pro events) across the country, the USA Pickleball National Championships seems to remain the “crown jewel” of pickleball tournaments. There is something in the air at Nationals in Indian Wells…