Pickleball has officially taken over New York City, as:
- The APP Tour held the first ever pickleball tournament at the iconic USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows;
- Major League Pickleball rang the bell at the New York Stock Exchange and hosted the first ever sporting event inside of the NYSE boardroom; and
- Major League Pickleball played pickleball in the middle of Times Square.
Let’s start with the APP New York City Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, which is the largest stop on the APP Tour. Pickleball players from across the country (including celebrities like David Dobrik) donned upon New York City for a chance to play at the iconic venue, as well as for a little something extra, as all participants were playing for a USA Pickleball golden ticket to play at the most coveted pickleball tournament of the year—the USA Pickleball National Championships at the Indian Wells Tennis Center in Indian Wells, California.
From afar, the set-up at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center looked beautiful. Tennis court #17 became championship court #1 for pickleball. However, the one downside is that, on camera, it looked as if there were minimal to no fans in the stands. The excitement that court-side fans bring to the fans at home was missing. Whether it was due to the lack of shade or other reasons, we hope that more fans are closer to the action in the coming years. Nevertheless, it looked to be a great event that survived the rain and the pickleball players—including the pros—put on excellent play, despite long rain delays and up to 14 hours on the pickleball courts.
Women’s Singles Makes Three in a Row for Parris Todd
Parris Todd (#6 seed) faced off against Salome Devidze (#7 seed) in the women’s singles final on Championship Sunday. Devidze had the advantage of having been accustomed to playing at the sizeable venue, as she had once played tennis at the UTSA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center prior to her pickleball career. Despite this advantage, it was Todd that won the gold medal in a pretty convincing fashion (11-4,11-2). Todd has now won three straight gold medals in women’s singles on the APP Tour.
Also, shout out to Anna Bright for taking home the bronze medal in women’s singles!
Intense Men’s Singles Favors Zane Navratil
The #1 and #2 seeds took the pickleball court for men’s singles, as JW Johnson and Zane Navratil battled for the championship. The interesting thing about this match-up is that both Johnson and Navratil were to play in all three finals—men’s singles, men’s doubles, and mixed doubles—and each had the opportunity to triple crown.
In the best of three match, Navratil took game one, but Johnson handedly took game two. With the momentum from game two, Johnson looked like he may run away with the gold, especially as he took an early 5-1 lead. However, Johnson then took a time-out (which seemed atypical, as Johnson does not take too many time-outs) and, after this time-out, things started to look differently for Johnson. Navratil made clean shots and Johnson didn’t look himself. Navratil took advantage to win game three, forcing the if-necessary game to 15, as Navratil was coming out of the back draw (as a reminder, unlike the PPA Tour, the APP Tour has a true double elimination format to allow teams to come out of the consolation bracket and win the gold). Navratil rolled with his momentum, claiming the gold medal (11-6,1-11,11-9,15-3) and setting his sights on a triple crown.
And, big congrats to Federico Staksrud for the bronze medal—medaling in both the PPA Tour and APP Tour in back-to-back weekends.
Women’s Doubles Goes to the Experienced
The women’s doubles final featured veterans, Simone Jardim and Andrea Koop, against a new partnership in Lauren Stratman and Parris Todd. Jardim and Koop, who have won two gold medals on the APP Tour together this season, proved too strong for the new duo, as Jardim and Koop won in straight games (11-2,11-5). As two of the smartest and steadiest players on the pickleball tour, Jardim and Koop are a tough team to beat. But, kudos to Stratman and Todd on a great result for their first time playing together, and a strong doubles result for Todd (who had already won gold in womens’ singles and is known as a strong singles pickleball player).
Potentially the nicest—and definitely the most smiley—players on tour, Corrine Carr and Vivienne David took the bronze medal. Congrats to Corrine and Vivienne!
Men’s Doubles Tees Up a Triple Crown Opportunity
The men’s doubles final featured men’s singles foes, JW Johnson and Zane Navratil on the same side of the pickleball net. Their opponents were the towering Romanians, Andrei Daescu and Eden Lica. The difference in physical stature was also emphasized in the difference in on-court play—although not in the way you may have thought. Johnson and Navratil were ready to speed up the pickleball, while Daescu and Lica were ready to slow the game down with steady dinks.
It was the power game that prevailed in the end, as Johnson and Navratil won in straight games (11-9,11-4). This gold medal win was the second for the Johnson-Navratil partnership, and also set up Navratil for a potential triple crown on the weekend.
Keeping it in the family, cousins AJ Koller and Thomas Wilson grabbed the bronze medal, as they suffered a heartbreaking loss to Daescu and Lica in the bronze medal game (losing 9-11 in the third game of a best of three match-up).
Mixed Doubles Is All About the Johnsons
Speaking of family, teenage siblings, JW Johnson and Jorja Johnson looked solid in mixed doubles. These teenagers were the only thing standing in the way of Zane Navratil’s triple crown in New York City. Navratil and his partner, Andrea Koop, were looking to double-dip the Johnson duo. However, the Johnsons looked in total control. Jorja played lights out and JW stepped up his level of play on the day (particularly, after a slight wobble at the end of his men’s singles match), leading to a runaway victory for the siblings (11-5,11-7). Even their opponent, Koop noted that they “just played better” when interviewed after the match.
Navratil had to settle for two gold medals and one silver medal, just like his men’s partner, JW Johnson, who had a similar day.
In a tough mixed doubles field, it was Corrine Carr and DJ Young who took home the bronze medal, which was Carr’s second bronze medal on the weekend. Carr and Young had a wild 20-18 victory over Lauren Stratman and Julian Arnold to get into the bronze medal match, before falling to Navratil and Koop in the bronze medal match.
Major League Pickleball Is Back for a Second Season in a Big Way
To add to the excitement of the APP New York City Open, Major League Pickleball (MLP)—which is known for its exciting team-style pickleball competition and was the event of the year in its inaugural year in 2021—joined in the fun by taking over the New York Stock Exchange and Times Square.
MLP was just warming up, as MLP then hosted a draft reveal party ahead of its first event for the 2022 season on June 3rd through June 5th in Dripping Springs, Texas. During this draft reveal party, MLP announced the 12 teams and 48 pickleball players that will be back for MLP’s second season. These 12 teams and 48 players (depicted below – these players (1) include four sets of siblings and one set of cousins, showing that pickleball is a true family game, and (2) will notably not include any PPA-contracted players (as they have exclusivity to the PPA Tour)) will compete in three events over the 2022 calendar year for a total of $1 million in prize money. That’s right… $1 million in prize money…
Check out the teams below to pick your favorite(s). Then, tune in to the first Major League Pickleball event of the 2022 season to see if your favorite pickleball team/player takes home the victory!