Double Crown for Waters, Bright & Newman Take Mixed Gold at PPA Arizona Grand Slam
Despite missing out on her usual mixed doubles finals appearance, Anna Leigh Waters capitalized to secure singles and women's doubles titles today.
That's a wrap from Arizona! The Professional Pickleball Association (PPA) Tour Arizona Grand Slam concluded today from Bell Bank Park in front of a capacity crowd of pickleball enthusiasts. After three straight professional pickleball events in Arizona (MLP Mesa, PPA Desert Ridge Open, and PPA Arizona Grand Slam), the top pickleball players competing under the PPA banner will pack their bags and head to Minnesota for next week's event.
Below are your Gold Medalists/Champions after an action packed Championship Sunday today:
Mixed Doubles: Anna Bright & Riley Newman.
Women's Doubles: Anna Leigh Waters & Anna Bright.
Men's Doubles: Ben & Collin Johns.
Women's Singles: Anna Leigh Waters.
Men's Singles: Federico Staksrud.
PPA Arizona Grand Slam Mixed Doubles Championship:
(3) Anna Bright & Riley Newman def. (8) Jorja & JW Johnson:
8-11, 11-7, 9-11, 11-5, 11-4.
In a thrilling five game match, Bright & Newman outlasted the sibling combination of Jorja & JW Johnson in an incredibly close contest throughout. After having five match points, Bright & Newman finally closed out the final game after making a few adjustments throughout a long match. Newman especially utilized his length and size to become a dominant presence in the center of the court late in the match, taking calculated risks and resetting counter-attacks whenever he felt behind in a rally.
Anna Bright has proven to be capable of solid and consistent play under the brightest lights in pickleball. She has combined well with Newman stylistically to provide world-class firepower at the net whilst keeping the pressure high on opponents with a great toolbox of offensive weapons including a powerful third shot drive and the ability to hit powerful strokes from mid-court. Despite falling in the finals, the sibling duo of Johnson & Johnson will be a team to keep a particular eye on in the weeks to come and throughout 2023 after pulling the upset over the top-seeded Waters & Johns on Friday.
"We had to stay solid and stick to our game plan," said Anna Bright. "It was a great match and congrats to the Johnsons, I wouldn't want to play against anyone else on such a big stage.
PPA Arizona Grand Slam Women's Doubles Championship:
(1) Anna Leigh Waters & Anna Bright def. (6) Jessie Irvine & Jackie Kawamoto:
11-7, 7-11, 11-1, 11-3.
Anna Leigh Waters & Anna Bright are a dynamic and powerful combination, and they have proven that they have the ability to change tactics and strategies on the fly. This was their second tournament together and second Championship, as their first time partnering and winning together came earlier in the year at the PPA Masters event in January. Waters & Bright looked in control throughout today's final, but were punished by Irvine & Kawamoto whenever they played a bit over aggressive or tried to end points too quickly. At the end of the day, today's finals result came down to execution and consistency, both of which Waters & Bright have proven they can provide under the brightest of pickleball lights and on the largest of pickleball's stages.
The duo also showed some interesting and intelligent tactical switches throughout the tournament, sometimes switching who was playing each side in order to set up specific matchups or initiate advantageous dink patterns. As Waters has gone 3/3 thus far in Women's Doubles Championships in 2023, both Catherine Parenteau and Anna Bright have proven to be compatible and reliable teammates for the World No.1. Despite falling in four games today, reaching the final was a tremendous accomplishment for the 6th seed in Irvine & Kawamoto, and they will certainly be an intriguing partnership to watch grow and improve even further in 2023.
"We can switch sides whenever we want, there's a lot that goes into it," said Anna Leigh Waters.
PPA Arizona Grand Slam Men's Doubles Championship:
(1) Ben & Collin Johns def. (2) Matt Wright & Riley Newman:
11-7, 7-11, 11-4, 14-12.
In what has become a very common Championship matchup, the top seeded Johns brothers once again edged out a victory over the hungry and energetic Matt Wright & Riley Newman. Wright & Newman have solidified themselves as the second best men's doubles team in the world, and reached yet another final today to take on the sibling duo of the Johns brothers. Wright & Newman were creative and gritty throughout today's final, often changing patterns, sides, and strategies to solve the problems that the Johns brothers present. Nevertheless, Ben & Collin proved too solid once again, making virtually no errors and having an incredible eye for counterpunching attacks, speeding up at the right time, and finding dink patterns that produce points.
The match was a thriller throughout, and especially when it came to game four. Wright & Newman battled through a few match point saves that had the crowd roaring, and the center court atmosphere was especially electric as the four on court volleyed blistering shots back and forth in epic reflex battles. Despite the rare occurrence of not reaching the singles or mixed doubles final this weekend, Ben Johns showed class and composure to add another trophy to his case.
"There's no team you need to be more weary of when it comes to fast hands and volleys. You have to be conscious of that," said Ben Johns. "I had a blast out here because the points were so amazingly fun."
PPA Arizona Grand Slam Women's Singles Championship:
(1) Anna Leigh Waters def. (3) Lea Jansen:
The World No.1 added another Championship to her case and a second title of the day after playing aggressive and hitting her targets against the always tough Lea Jansen. The colder weather especially suited Waters' game, whizzing the ball through the cold air with her powerful ground strokes and closing out points at the net with put-away volleys. Jansen put up a great fight, committing to angled strokes from the baseline and making few errors. Despite the efforts from Jansen, Waters was relentless in chasing the ball down and never giving up on a point.
Today's win marks three straight singles Championships for Anna Leigh Waters, who will return to her home state of Florida to catch up on school work before returning to action next month.
"It's always tough playing Lea, she's one of my closest friends on tour and on my MLP team," said Anna Leigh Waters. "It was a bit cold which suited my singles game, so I came out firing."
PPA Arizona Grand Slam Men's Singles Championship:
(4) Federico Staksrud def. (2) Jay Devilliers:
After falling to Ben Johns in the final of the PPA Desert Ridge Open two weeks ago, Staksrud returned to the PPA Tour with a vengeance, earning his revenge on Ben Johns on Thursday and winning the title today against the 2nd seed. Both players started the match a bit cagey, perhaps due to nerves. After a few side outs at a score of 2-2 in game one, Staksrud found his groove and began hitting his targets.
Playing a risky but effective style of singles pickleball, Staksrud began passing Devilliers regularly and racking up points quickly. Combined with his great court coverage and big serve, Staksrud handled business with ease, scoring a shutout in the second game over the experienced and talented Devilliers. After securing silver in singles in his first two PPA appearances of the year, Staksrud secured the gold.
"I wanted to make this more a sprint than a marathon, and everything worked perfectly," said Federico Staksrud.
The 2023 PPA Tour calendar continues next week with the Indoor National Championships on February 23rd from Lakeville, Minnesota.