The PPA Is Back In Action This Week at the Baird Wealth Management Open
The PPA is going to the Buckeye State this weekend for the Baird Wealth Management Open, on the banks of the Ohio River in Cincinnati. The brackets will be shaken up as there will be no Riley nor Lindsey Newman, giving Spencer Smith the opportunity to partner with Matt Wright.
In the traditional PPA format, singles begin the tournament on Thursday, mixed doubles Friday, gender doubles Saturday with all gold medal matches taking place in a best of five game series on Sunday. Expect both Ben Johns and Anna Leigh Waters to be on triple crown alert, especially with the absence of Riley Newman.
Men’s doubles is turning into a hotbed of talent with two competitors boasting a DUPR rating over 7.00: Johns and former division one tennis player James Ignatowich. This division also features the most electrifying man in sports according to Barstool Sports, in the fancy shirt-wearing, mullet and mustache-rocking Tyson McGuffin.
Expect these three to make a serious run at the title along with Frenchman Jay Devilliers and rising star Hunter Johnson. Johns comes into Thursday’s singles action as the reigning champ. However, Johns will be under some serious fire from Selkrik’s McGuffin, who is the number one-ranked men’s singles player in the PPA.
Recent history shows us that this division will be a fight for second, as first will likely be locked up by the 15-year-old phenomenon Waters. Waters has struck gold in all but one tournament in singles this year, with her only loss coming via Parris Todd in the finals. With no Todd this tournament, expect more of the same from the dominant, young superstar.
Second and third place are up for grabs with Lea Jansen, Callie Smith, Catherine Parenteau, Anna Bright and Salome Devidze all capable of coming in those spots. In Waters’ absences this year, Parenteau has taken the most golds. In addition, the Canadian is the most frequent player to contend against Waters in the finals. However, in the last PPA tournament, it was Jansen that made it to the first place match against Waters.
Waters and Johns will once again come into this event as the favorites, with last tournament’s runner-ups, Smith and Koller, standing in their way. Smith and Koller have continued to improve their chemistry, games and thus their results throughout the year. They will be hungrier than ever, given they’re coming off their best performance as a team.
Staples in the division like Jessie Irvine/Devilliers and Lucy Kovalova/Wright will make it tough for both of the aforementioned teams to meet for a rematch in the finals. Anna Bright and Ignatowich return to the PPA tour and will surely be in the mix for a medal. Ignatowich, who only started playing in professional tournaments earlier this year, is an evolving force in mixed doubles, and teaming up with his MLP partner should be fruitful.
The Newman-absence really shakes up the top half of this bracket, as the Newman-Wright duo has won gold in the last two tournaments against Ben and Collin Johns. That also means that pickleball fans will have to wait until the following tournament to see the rivalry between Newman/Wright and the Johns to resurface.
Spencer Smith gets the call to fill Newman’s position alongside Wright, but it will be a battle for them to get into medal contention with the lack of chemistry and depth in the field. With Newman out and Wright playing with Smith, the Johns brothers will take over as the favorites.
Outside of the brothers, Devilliers/McGuffin and Koller/Thomas Wilson will be right there looking to derail the siblings' gold attempt. This weekend will be a great chance for both of these teams to truly establish themselves as the clear number three best team in men’s doubles on the PPA tour. If they can win that match, it will certainly create some hype and momentum for them going forward.
This 10-team division is packed with top-level talent and a budding rivalry between Leigh/Anna Leigh Waters and Kovalova/Smith, who almost always seem to play each other in the finals. These teams have faced off six times in the finals this year, with both walking away with three victories. So this tournament could host their “game 7” so to speak.
With Newman out, Irvine will once again team up with California Berkeley product Bright. The last time these ladies shared the court together, they barely missed out on the podium at the Tournament of Champions. There is no doubt that both of these competitors will bring the fire, hunger and energy on Saturday.
The other two teams that have a great chance to crack into the top three are the Kawamoto sisters, Jackie and Jade, and Jansen/Parenteau. The Kawamotos are analogous to a brick wall, getting back virtually every ball hit to them, creating frustration and confusion for their opponents. Jansen/Parenteau are kind of the opposite. While they also have good defense, they thrive on drives, speed-ups and sharp angles for winners.