Top Seeds Prevail in Men's Doubles, New Partnership of Irvine & Kawamoto reaches Finals on Women's Side
Today's Gender Doubles Action Brought Some Incredibly Lengthy and Narrow Matches in Some of the Deepest PPA Brackets of All Time.
The Professional Pickleball (PPA) Tour Arizona Grand Slam continued today from the premium and massive Bell Bank Park facility in Mesa. Weather conditions were perfect for pickleball as the world's top professionals took the court in several new team combinations. After three days of nonstop action, the Championship Sunday schedule is officially set. Below are your Championship matchups for men's and women's doubles:
Women's Doubles Championship (Sunday, February 19th):
(1) Anna Leigh Waters & Anna Bright vs. (6) Jessie Irvine & Jackie Kawamoto.
Waters & Bright:
Def. Padegimaite & Ackerman 11-2, 11-3.
Def. Grechkina & Gayton-Leach 11-3, 11-7.
Def. Jansen & Jones 11-3, 9-11, 11-4.
Anna Leigh Waters, the World No.1, has had an open audition to a few of the best players in the world, bringing them onboard as partners during the absence of her mother and usual partner, Leigh Waters, due to an unfortunate knee injury. The results have been great thus far, as Anna Leigh is coming off of back-to-back triple crown performances at the first two PPA events of 2023. Anna Leigh has returned this weekend alongside Anna Bright, who is known for her great firepower and prolonged intensity throughout her matches. Waters & Bright proved their worth as the top seed today, taking on some difficult opposition and winning clutch points in high-pressure moments. They overcame the unique and gritty combination of Allyce Jones & Lea Jansen in three games to punch their ticket to Championship Sunday, where they will be considered the favorites to take care of business.
Irvine & J. Kawamoto:
Def. Stratman & Kawamoto 11-5, 11-4.
Def. Parenteau & Johnson 7-11, 11-7, 11-8.
Def. Kovalova & Smith 11-1, 11-9.
The new partnership of Jessie Irvine & Jackie Kawamoto entered the draw today as the 6th seed, and some may have thought, as is often the case with new partnerships, that Kawamoto & Irvine might need some time to find their rhythm, strategy, and team chemistry to find Championship level success on the PPA Tour. The duo fast-tracked their success, however, and raised eyebrows today with their aggressive play style and composure on center court. Jackie Kawamoto in particular shined under the bright lights, proving that not only does she belong at the highest level, but that she is capable of upsetting and winning against any player on the planet. Jansen & Kawamoto were pushed the most today by Catherine Parenteau and Jorja Johnson (who was riding the high of her Mixed Doubles Championship opportunity she scored yesterday alongside her brother JW). They then handled the always tough Lucy Kovalova & Callie Smith in two games to earn their Sunday opportunity. Kawamoto delivered this landmark day in her career using the SLK Halo.
"It's so fun to compete at this level," said Jackie Kowamoto. "This is my first PPA Tour event of the year, so to make it to Championship Sunday with Jessie is awesome."
Men's Doubles Championship (Sunday, February 19th):
(1) Ben Johns & Collin Johns vs. (2) Matt Wright & Riley Newman.
Johns & Johns:
Def. Rosner & Anderson 11-3, 11-5.
Def. Navritil & Hewett 11-7, 11-8.
Def. Arnold & Wilson 11-7, 12-10.
Def. Koller & Bar 10-12, 11-9, 11-4.
Redemption was the name of the game for Ben Johns today, who rallied well to earn a Championship opportunity alongside his brother after surprisingly missing out on Championship Sunday in both singles and mixed doubles. B. Johns looked like himself out there, cutting over to the center of the court often and controlling rallies with accurate dinks and ruthless hand speed. The brothers had some stiff competition throughout the day, yet made it look comfortable throughout, not dropping a single game to 11 until the semifinals. They were particularly clutch in a fiery match against the extremely athletic combination Julian Arnold and Thomas Wilson. Next, they overcame a slow start (dropping the first game) against Koller & Bar before rebounding to earn their finals slot. It should also be mentioned that AJ Koller & Dekel Bar had a Quarterfinal match that will be considered for match of the year when they took on Tyler Loong & Callan Dawson this afternoon. The match lasted over 1 hour and 20 minutes, with the final decisive game being decided 16-14.
Wright & Newman:
Def. Hall & Anderson 11-1, 11-1.
Def. Koszuta & Loyd 11-3, 11-1.
Def. Smith & Patriquin 11-5, 11-4.
Def. Frazier & Johson 11-3, 11-6.
Matt Wright & Riley Newman will get another opportunity to take on their Championship rivals in the Johns brothers. The path to Sunday was incredibly comfortable for the number 2 seed, as they played especially patient and displayed incredible defensive resetting capabilities throughout the day. They had no long stretches of errors and did not allow any of their opponents to form any level of rhythm or flow. In fact, Wright & Newman amazingly only allowed 24 points against them throughout their four matches, and the closest game they played was still a comfortable margin at 11-6. Wright & Newman have proven to be the toughest test for the Johns brothers throughout the history of the PPA tour, and have pulled off the upset before. Sunday presents a great opportunity to score a win in the series, especially due to the unusual circumstance this week of Ben Johns reaching the gold medal match for 1 of 3 events.
"Matt and I really play our best pickleball when we have high energy and high internsity," said Riley Newman. "Onto the next one."