James Ignatowich & Anna Bright Book First Championship Sunday Appearance Together at PPA Austin Showdown
James Ignatowich turned a few heads when he mentioned plans to partner with Anna Bright for the remainder of 2023. A few weeks later today, the new duo booked their first Championship Sunday appearance as a team, and will take on the top seeded Anna Leigh Waters & Ben Johns.
After Anna Bright and Riley Newman kicked off the year together in a new partnership, many wondered if they could be a team to dethrone the top seeded and experienced combination of Waters & Johns. It was her recent switch to play with Ignatowich, however, that best contributed to her punching her first mixed doubles Championship Sunday appearance. Ignatowich and Bright are partners on and off the court, and proved to be a force to be reckoned with in 2023 after going undefeated today as the seventh seed. After a long day of mixed doubles action in a world-class bracket, sibling duo of Jorja & JW Johnson walked away with the bronze medal.
Below is your mixed doubles Championship Sunday matchup for March 19th.
(1) Anna Leigh Waters & Ben Johns vs. (7) Anna Bright & James Ignatowich.
Waters & Johns:
Def. Taufa & Barrientos 11-4, 11-5.
Def. Braverman & Loong 11-4, 11-5.
Def. David & Wilson 11-5, 8-11, 11-8.
Def. Jansen & Frazier 11-3, 11-3.
Anna Leigh Waters & Ben Johns looked like the top team in the world today as they worked their way through a loaded mixed doubles bracket and only dropped one game on the day. After a solid first round win, the partnership really started to get the ball rolling with a composed and comfortable victory over the a new partnership in Jillian Braverman & Tyler Loong. They then took on Vivenne David & Thomas Wilson in the Quarterfinal, a dangerous team known for their scrappy defense and ability to hit powerful third shot drives. Waters & Johns handled the onslaught, however, and kept their opponents on the back foot to open the match. Wilson & David rallied, however, catching fire to win a closely contested game two and even take a strong lead in game three.
Nevertheless, Waters & Johns slowed the game down with immaculate precision and control to throw off the rhythm of their opponents, proving the more clutch team in difficult moments and outlasting their opponents in rapid paced hand battles. Finally, Waters & Johns took on a new partnership in Lea Jansen & Dylan Frazier in the Semis. Jansen & Frazier put together one of the most impressive runs of the day as the 12 seed, and looked to be in great form after pulling off the upset over Catherine Parenteau & Tyson McGuffin in three games. That being said, Waters & Johns put together a brilliant game plan to find momentum and outmaneuver their opponents in long dink rallies to win the match handedly and claim a spot in Sunday's final.
"It was an unfamiliar team, so it wasn't too much about strategic but more about playing our game," said Ben Johns.
Bright & Ignatowich:
Def. Gargallo & French 11-7, 11-0.
Def. Jones & Smith 11-4, 11-4.
Def. Kovalova & Wright 11-5, 6-11, 11-6.
Def. Johnson & Johnson 11-6, 11-4.
Many had their eyes on the seventh seeded Anna Bright & James Ignatowich today, as the new partnership of rising stars has been picked by many to begin scoring upsets over the old guard. The duo proved those right today by going undefeated throughout the day and only dropping one game to the second seeded Kovalova & Wright. The firepower from Bright & Ignatowich was relentless throughout bracket play, dismantling their opponents comfortably in the first two rounds before setting up a Quarterfinal opportunity against Kovalova & Wright.
Bright & Ignatowich were able to make the third shot drive a consistent threat in that match, often blitzing on each others drives for putaway volleys and painting lines whenever their opponents would let them go. They also showed tremendous poise up at the kitchen line, with both of them able to blast two-handed backhand counters on high ball opportunities. Additionally, Bright & Ignatowich made very few unforced errors throughout the day, and they capitalized on their opportunities when presented. They met their close friends and regular training partners in Jorja & JW Johnson in the Semifinals. Despite the extraordinary fast hands that the sibling duo presented, Bright & Ignatowich proved too clinical in setting up their offense, and through their combined efforts punched their first ticket together to a Championship Sunday opportunity. Being a new partnership, and with Ignatowich wielding the popular Selkirk Labs Project 002 paddle, their showdown with Anna Leigh Waters & Ben Johns will be of particular anticipation for pickleball fans worldwide.
"They both have really fast hands. It's tough to play against them because I like to get hyped up when I play against them but they're just such nice kids," joked James Ignatowich. "Luckily we won and I'm looking forward to Sunday."
The PPA Tour Austin Showdown continues tomorrow from Lakeway, Texas with gender doubles action. Play can be viewed live on the PPA Tour YouTube channel, with livestream starting at 10am CT.