In her own words, Leigh Waters recaps her latest pro pickleball tournament – the PPA Riverland Open – with her daughter and pro women’s doubles partner, Anna Leigh Waters…
To say it was windy is an understatement. The PPA Riverland Open in Port St. Lucie, Florida saw some of the highest sustained winds, not to mention gusts, that I personally have ever played in. The pro women’s doubles bracket was placed on a wind delay just after our first round match. Before that first match started, Anna Leigh and I discussed our strategy. Honestly, we felt like the wind was as much our opponent as the women standing across the net. We had a two-pronged plan: (1) keep our feet moving and (2) keep our eyes on the ball. In the wind especially, these two steps were vital for survival.
After our first round win, and after the wind delay, we decided to have a nice lunch and go back to the hotel and relax. We actually tried to think about anything but pickleball. I took a nap, and AL looked at TikTok and did some stretching and recovery work. We knew we had a tough semifinal against Simone Jardim and Lucy Kovalova that evening, but we didn’t want to overthink the matchup.
A good warm up before the semifinal was key. We got back to the courts an hour and a half before match time. The wind had greatly died down, though it was still present. We hit on both sides of the court to get used to the ball flight both against and with the wind. We were ready for battle and we were determined.
Playing in front of the Saint Lucie crowd was electric. The fans were amazing and they really gave us some extra energy to pull out the win. Though we started the match out strong, we were down in the second game. After a very strategic time out, we fought back and won the match in two games. We had punched our ticket in to Championship Sunday!
AL had three finals that day. She started out winning her pro mixed doubles final with Ben Johns. Her goal was winning her first ever triple crown. As her women’s doubles partner, I felt the pressure for sure. I was very focused and we had a tight game plan for our challengers, Jessie Irvine and Catherine Parenteau. Unfortunately, we started a little slow and found ourselves down 9-2 in the first game. Due to another time out, a shift in strategy, and a little confidence bump, we were able to pull out game one and go on to win the gold in three straight games (Championship Sunday finals are three out of five instead of two out of three).
Next was the pro women’s singles final, and if she won, Anna Leigh would have her first-ever triple crown. She was on a mission. I’ve never seen her so ready to play a match. She won in three straight games and played a pretty flawless singles match. She now had her triple crown and all that was left was… yep you guessed it… cake!!