Championship SATURDAY at the PPA Tournament of Champions Did Not Disappoint!
History was denied with Riley Newman and Matt Wright beating Ben Johns and Collin Johns in the men’s doubles finals, prohibiting Ben from his 4th triple crown of the year and simultaneously stopping the coveted double-triple crown (a men’s and women’s triple crown in one tournament). Anna Leigh Waters did her part on championship Saturday at the Tournament of Champions in Utah, getting her third triple crown of the year.
Men’s doubles: 🥇Riley Newman & Matt Wright 🥈Ben Johns & Collin Johns
Women’s doubles: 🥇Anna Leigh Waters & Leigh Waters 🥈Lucy Kovalova & Callie Smith
Mixed doubles: 🥇Ben Johns & Anna Leigh Waters 🥈AJ Koller & Callie Smith
Men’s singles: 🥇Ben Johns 🥈Dylan Frazier
Women’s singles: 🥇Anna Leigh Waters 🥈Lea Jansen
Newman and Wright once again beat the Johns brothers in the finals, showing that the Johns are in fact beatable! Many fans thought it was a fluke the first time they did it earlier this year at the PPA Atlanta Open in May. However, another gold medal victory showed that Newman and Wright are more than worthy challengers in this quickly developing rivalry.
After losing the first game 4-11, Newman/Wright demolished the brothers in game two, 11-1, taking the crowd and the momentum with them. Game 3 came down to the wire with Newman and Wright squeaking out a 12-10 victory. Up two games to one, Newman and Wright played with supreme confidence and unleashed an array of attacks at the Johns with impeccable success.
Newman and Wright thrived off of keeping the brothers extremely uncomfortable with constant speed-ups at both opponents and some Wright-lobs mixed in. Let’s give some credit to Ben in the loss, as it was his third finals appearance on the day.
In his other two matches, Johns made it look almost too easy as he won in straight sets in men’s singles and mixed doubles, alike. His first event of the day was singles against Dylan Frazier and he did not let the Missouri-native off the hook for even one point. Johns largely benefited from his serve, return and third shots, whether they were rips or drops. Frazier tried to get Johns in the cat and mouse game at the non-volley line, but to little avail.
Frazier gave us a highlight to remember with this nifty around the post shot:
Anna Leigh Waters
Johns then teamed up with Waters in his second event of the day to inflict severe damage on their challengers in AJ Koller and Callie Smith, once again winning in straight games. Johns and Waters were simply too good for their foes on this given Saturday. Every single shot they hit was done with the utmost purpose and precision, keeping their opponents on their heels at all times.
At a combined age of just 38 years old, this duo played a fluid style of pickleball. Both are capable of the others’ skills. Johns can poach anytime Waters drives, and vice versa. When Johns covers a dink that Waters can’t get to, they effortlessly switch and resume play. This created heaps of problems for their opponents. Not to mention when Koller and Smith unwinded their stack on defense, both Johns and Waters made them pay with lethal drives.
This proved to be the same for Waters in the women’s doubles final and she and her mom, Leigh Waters, defeated Lucy Kovalova and Callie Smith in three games. The shake-n-bake (a third shot drive followed by a put-away poach) proved to be extremely effective for the Waters. On the contrary, Kovalova and Smith struggled with their third shots, ultimately leading to their demise.
The problem with hitting third shots, especially against the Waters, is if it’s not perfect, the mother-daughter duo will make you pay. High third shots gave the Waters the upper-hand, and low third shots often gave the Waters the ball back. Kovalova and Smith played an extremely close game two, but still lost 10-12. That seemed like their last-ditch effort. The Waters took game three easily.
In her first event of the day, the 15-year-old Waters put on a dominant performance in women’s singles against Lea Jansen, making it her eighth gold medal in singles on the year. She may be the closest thing to a brick wall in pickleball terms, with very few shots getting past her. Her drives provided a tremendous advantage and her ability to hit unbelievable shots on the run often left Jansen a little confused.
Waters was dominant on Saturday, winning all of her matches in three games: a truly historic performance.