Pictonia in Daytona Beach hosted its second pro pickleball event in as many months as the Carvana Professional Pickleball Association rolled into town to hold the Red Clay Hot Sauce Florida Open. Nearly 1,200 players descended on the Spring Break hot-spot, and the tour’s presence in Florida meant that the pro draws were massive. Between the main draws and the qualifiers, there were 80 players in the Men’s singles and 96 players in the Men’s doubles pro draws. With this many players surprises were bound to happen.
Ben Johns returned to action and won the triple crown for the third time in four events so far in 2023, but the big story from Florida was the player he vanquished in the singles finals.
Let’s Recap the action.
Men’s Pro Singles Recap:
No fewer than 56 players entered the qualifying draw for 8 coveted spots in the main draw, and at the end of Singles Thursday the tour had a truly shocking finalist. Collin Shick, a former NC State tennis star and relative newbie to professional pickleball, was seeded 31st in the qualifying draw (and thus 55th overall), and powered his way past a number of established PPA pros, including two guys who already have singles medals this season in #6 Julian Arnold and #7 Dylan Frazier to earn a spot in the Sunday final.
From the top half of the draw, #1 Ben Johns had to go breaker to get past #8 JW Johnson, but then ground out a win over surprise semifinalist #14 Pablo Tellez to return to the Gold Medal match for the 3rd time so far in 2023. Tellez went on to take the Bronze, his first singles medal of 2023, in a tiebreaker over #7 Frazier.
In the final, Shick utilized a “chip-and-charge” strategy on Johns’ serve and went on a huge run to take game one, giving the crowd hope that the ultimate Cinderella story could happen. However, #1 Johns had other plans for the final, and went on his own huge run to take games two and three 11-3, 11-0 to sew up the gold.
Gold: Ben Johns. Silver: Collin Shick. Bronze: Pablo Tellez.
Women’s Pro Singles Recap:
With #1 Anna Leigh Waters absent in Minnesota, Catherine Parenteau cruised to a gold medal in singles. However, Waters returned to the fold in Daytona, playing in her home state, and a repeat of that feat would prove challenging.
Parenteau was up for that challenge. In the semis of the winner’s bracket, the Canadian upset Waters 7,9, giving the #1 player her first singles loss of the year. Parenteau finished the task by topping #2 Lea Jansen in the gold medal match, just as she had done in Minnesota. Jansen makes the podium for the 5th time in 5 events so far this year, but still has not broken through for a title.
Gold: Catherine Parenteau. Silver: Lea Jansen. Bronze: Salome Devidze
Mixed Pro Doubles Recap
The big buzz in the lead-up to this event was the “big break-up” of the super team of Riley Newman and Anna Bright. Was this some sort of personality issue? Was one of the players too difficult to work with? Social media speculation seemed to focus more on the salacious than the obvious: Bright is in a personal relationship with James Ignatowich, and after “Big Jimmy’s” team topped Bright & Newman in Minnesota perhaps Anna thought it made more sense to compete with him than against him.
Newman didn’t skip a beat, picking up Parris Todd (probably the best player in the world not playing PPA exclusively) and making for some interesting storylines in this week’s Mixed competition. In the end though, both the Newman-Todd and Ignatowich-Bright teams failed to really make an impact here, with each team losing in the quarters.
At the end of the day, the two #1 players Johns & Waters cruised to another gold, their third in four attempts so far this year, defeating the #3 seeds Tyson McGuffin & Catherine Parenteau in the final.
Gold: Waters & Johns. Silver: McGuffin & Parenteau. Bronze: Irvine & Devilliers.
Men’s Pro Doubles Recap
Tyson McGuffin missed the last few PPA events with a foot issue and made his return; he paired up with the sensation from Minnesota Ignatowich, but couldn’t overcome #4 Dylan Frazier & JW Johnson in the quarters. Riley Newman’s tournament continued its sour run with a shock loss in the round of 32 as the #2 seed with partner Tim Parks. This opened the door from the bottom half for the #7 seeds Julian Arnold & Thomas Wilson to make a run to the finals.
In the end though, it was four golds in four attempts for the Johns brothers, who topped Arnold & Wilson in the gold medal match. Frazier & Johnson salvaged the bronze after losing to the Johns brothers in the semis.
Gold: Johns & Johns. Silver: Arnold & Wilson. Bronze: Frazier & Johnson.
Women’s Pro Doubles Recap
Anna Leigh Waters keeps switching back and forth between Anna Bright and Catherine Parenteau as her partner, each time winning gold. This weekend it was Parenteau’s turn, and with Waters the two cruised to a gold medal, giving both ladies “doubles” for the weekend. Bright teamed up with Parris Todd after being dropped by the world’s #1 player, but the pair was upset early by the upstart #6 seeds Lacy Schneemann & Jade Kawamoto in the quarters. Schneemann & Kawamoto then wiped out the #2 seeds Lea Jansen & Allyce Jones for a gold medal spot. Jansen & Jones salvaged a bronze for the weekend.
Gold: Waters & Parenteau. Silver: Schneemann & Kawamoto. Bronze: Jansen & Jones.
Senior Pro Competition Quick Recap
· Men’s Senior Pro Singles: #1 Mark Palus took gold, just as he did a month ago when the APP was in Daytona Beach.
· Men’s Senior Pro Doubles: Altaf Merchant won his fourth PPA Senior Pro Doubles title of 2023 and second in a row with Dave Weinbach, giving up just 16 combined points in three matches en route to the title.
· Mixed Senior Pro Doubles: Top Senior pros Julie Johnson & Mircea Morariu went 4-0 in the Mixed Senior Pro round robin competition to take gold.
Next up on the PPA Tour? According to my Master Pickleball Schedule … a quick turnaround for the pros, flying from Florida to Austin, the current mecca of the pickleball world, for the Austin Showdown.
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