Common in tennis tournaments, the progressive draw format is making its way to pickleball. The PPA Tour announced in November 2023 that it would be introducing the progression draw format at the USA Pickleball National Championships in November 2023. After this showing, it was decided that it would continue to be used for the tour’s larger tournaments in 2024. The progression draw format was seen in action again at The PPA Masters January 9-14, 2024 in Palm Springs, California.
The PPA has three levels of events: Slams, Cups, and Opens. The progressive draw will be used at PPA Slams and Cups which earn players more ranking points. PPA Open events will continue to use the traditional format in 2024.
There are a few arguments for and against the progressive draw format in pickleball. The pros include (1) a more reliable schedule of play; (2) the opportunity for fans and spectators to know when matches occur so they can watch the events they want to see; and (3) more stable scheduling for players allowing them to plan their days and travel more efficiently.
The cons include (1) a strategic challenge for players because they must prepare for different events within the same day; and (2) newer professional pickleball players have a long journey to reach championship court with the top eight seeds receiving priority and an automatic bye to the Round of 16.
Professional pickleball player, Lea Jansen, spoke out in favor of the progressive draw format through a post on social media. As the PPA Tour tests the progressive draw format this season, additional feedback is sure to be shared by professional players and pickleball fans alike.
So, what is the “progression draw” competition format?
The progressive draw means that rounds in the bracket progress day by day. The progressive draw has players participate in one match per event per day. This differs from the traditional format where all matches from a bracket are completed on the same day, apart from the medal matches. Typically, singles events occurred on Thursday, mixed doubles on Friday, men’s and women’s doubles on Saturday, and medal matches on Championship Sunday. The progressive draw guarantees that there will be singles, doubles, and mixed play throughout the week of the event.
- In the progressive draw, the qualifiers play on Tuesday to make their way into the Main Draw. The Main Draw usually consists of the top 40 players. This leaves eight available spots in the Main Draw for qualifiers. The qualifiers then participate in the Play In matches with the lower seeds.
- Second round matches and Round of 32 matches play on Wednesday.
- Round of 16 matches take place on Thursday.
- The Quarter Finals occur on Friday, the Semi Finals on Saturday, and Championship matches on Sunday.
The top players of the PPA Tour have a clear advantage as seeds 9-16 have a bye until the Round of 32, while the top eight seeds have a bye until the Round of 16.
So, what factors determine the placement of players in the Main Draw?
- The top 10 players with the most PPA points over the previous 52 weeks.
- Singles players who are PPA touring players and doubles teams with two PPA touring players are given priority. In doubles, teams with one PPA touring player and one non-PPA touring player are given the next priority.
- The PPA committee can also make two wildcard selections that will be placed in seeds 13 and 14.
- If other selections need to be made, PPA Points are used to determine other players who automatically qualify for the Main Draw.
Do you want to learn more about the formats and scoring in pickleball? Check out What Is Rally Scoring in Pickleball & How Does it Work? and Pickleball Scoring Rules – Learn How to Keep Score in Pickleball for more information.