The PPA Skechers Invitational
Ben Johns and Anna Leigh Waters both went big time on national television, winning 2 main events each at the Skechers Invitational Summer Championship in Los Angeles!
This 3-day event featured more than 20 exhibition matches, across all professional divisions, but without bracket play! While most of the matches were shown on PPA TV, CBS Sports Network broadcast 5 exhibition matches on national TV: 1 for each professional pickleball division.
Main Events of the Weekend
- Men’s doubles: Ben Johns/Collin Johns vs Riley Newman/Matt Wright
- Women’s doubles: Anna Leigh Waters/Leigh Waters vs Lucy Kovalova/Callie Smith
- Mixed doubles: Matt Wright/Lucy Kovalova vs Riley Newman/Catherine Parenteau
- Men’s singles: Ben Johns vs Tyson McGuffin
- Women’s singles: Anna Leigh Waters vs Catherine Parenteau
The matches televised on the sports network were a best 2 out of 3 games format, compared to the traditional 3 out of 5, resulting in shorter match times, more aggression and less fatigue.
Ben Johns once again put the pickleball world on notice as he looked almost unstoppable against Riley Newman and Matt Wright. Playing with his older brother Collin Johns, Ben came out on a mission and delivered. The 23-year-old controlled the action with his forehand in the middle dictating the pace, spacing and the game. His brother stayed steady on his right side, resetting balls, allowing Ben to constantly stay in attack mode.
While this match didn’t officially register as a tournament win, being there was no group play, it once again brought the momentum in this rivalry back to the Johns. The last time these teams met was at the PPA Atlanta Open 3 months ago, where Newman and Wright shocked the world by beating the Johns brothers in 5 games.
Now, all eyes will be on these duos next weekend at the Tournament of Champions in Brigham City, Utah.
Mother-daughter duo, Leigh Waters (mother) and Anna Leigh Waters (daughter), took home the victory against their common foes Lucy Kovalova and Callie Smith. Like Ben Johns, the 15-year-old Anna Leigh showed that she was on a whole other level compared to her competition.
These teams are the top 2 in the division and always seem to play each other on championship Sunday in traditional tournament brackets. Kovalova/Smith currently have 5 gold medals this year in women’s doubles, while the Waters have 3. However, Anna Leigh is clearly asserting herself as the number 1 women’s player, which could help her and her mom level the score of gold medals in the tournaments to come.
The wizards of Wichita, Wright and Kovalova, kept the pace and aggression up, in route to defeating Newman and Parenteau in 2 games. Wright and Kovalova benefited immensely from speeding up balls at the non-volley line and constantly kept their opponents on their heels. In addition, Wright started to develop a read on Newman’s poaching, which he then was able to exploit by hitting behind Newman.
Newman and Parenteau, who are relatively new partners, tried to change their positioning to skew the points in their favor. They eventually seemed to prefer Newman on the right and Parenteau on the left, but Wright and Kovalova were able to make their own series of adjustments to neutralize their opponents. Unfortunately for fans, they will not get a chance to see a rematch of these teams next weekend, as Newman and Parenteau will have different partners.
Ben Johns defeated the world’s number 1 men’s singles pickleball player, Tyson McGuffin, in straight sets, 11-8, 11-9. Johns showcased his full repertoire on Sunday, putting on a master clinic of powerful drives, crafty speed-ups and precise cross-court dinks. While Johns only needed 2 games, it was anything but a walk in the park for the world’s number 2 men’s singles player.
A little controversy struck at the end of game 1, as McGuffin was called for a foot fault, giving Johns his final point. McGuffin went ahead and challenged the call by the referee, but to no avail. However, upon further review, it looked like McGuffin may have been correct. But we’ll let you decide what the right call should have been. McGuffin then regrouped and put on a show in game 2, getting the crowd hyped in the process.
Waters was an absolute maestra on the court in singles, needing only 2 games to defeat Parenteau in the match. Not only is her backhand out of this world, but her all-around singles game is second to none. The way she controls points and her opponents’ movement is analogous to a puppet master.
So far this year, these ladies have met 4 times in a single’s final, with Waters winning each one of those. While Sunday was not a finals appearance, the same storyline of Waters controlling the action and taking the victory resurfaced. In a format like this, where Waters doesn’t have to play in grueling bracket play, she is almost always going to be the favorite. The only way to slow this young wrecking machine down is to hope she comes into the match fatigued.