Pictonia in Daytona Beach hosted its second professional pickleball event in as many months as the Carvana Professional Pickleball Association rolled into town to host the Red Clay Hot Sauce Florida Open. Nearly 1,200 players descended on the Spring Break hot-spot, and the tour’s presence in Florida meant the pro draws were huge. Between the main draws and qualifiers, there were 80 players in the men’s singles and 96 players in the men’s professional doubles. With this many player surprises were bound to happen.
Ben Jones returned to action and won the triple crown for the third time in four events so far in 2023, but the big story from Florida was the player to beat in the singles finals.
Let’s recap the action.
Men’s Pro Singles Recap:
At least 56 players entered the qualifying draw for 8 coveted main draw spots and at the end of Thursday Singles the tour had a truly sensational finalist. Collin Shick, a former NC State tennis star and relative newcomer to pro pickleball, finished 31st in the qualifying draw (and thus 55th overall) and passed several recognized PPA pros, including two men who already have singles medals this year season to #6 Julian Arnold and #7 Dylan Frazier to earn a spot in Sunday’s final.
From the first half of the draw, #1 Ben Jones had to overcome #8 JW Johnson, but then defeated surprise semi-finalist #14 Pablo Tellez to return to the gold medal race for the 3rd time so far in 2023. Tellez took the bronze medal, his first singles medal of 2023, in a tiebreaker over #7 Frazier.
In the final, Shick used a chip-and-charge strategy on Johns’ serve and made a huge effort to take the first game, giving the crowd hope that the ultimate Cinderella story could happen. However, #1 Jones had other plans for the final and made a huge run of his own to take games two and three 11-3, 11-0 to seal the gold.
Gold: Ben Jones. Silver: Colin Schick. Bronze: Pablo Tellez.
Pro Women’s Singles Recap:
With #1 Anna Leigh Waters absent in Minnesota, Catherine Parenteau captured the singles gold. However, Waters returned to the fold at Daytona, playing in her hometown, and repeating that feat would prove challenging.
Parenteau was ready for this challenge. In the winner’s bracket semifinals, the Canadian upset Waters by 7.9, handing the #1 seed her first singles loss of the year. Parenteau completed the task by topping #2 Lea Jansen in the gold medal match, just as she had done in Minnesota. Jansen has been on the podium for the 5th time in 5 races so far this year, but has yet to win a title.
Gold: Catherine Parenteau. Silver: Leah Jansen. Bronze: Salome Devidze
Mixed Pro Doubles Recap
The big buzz leading up to this event was the “big breakup” of the super team of Riley Newman and Anna Bright. Was this some kind of personality issue? Was it too difficult to work with one of the players? Social media speculation seemed to focus more on the malicious than the obvious: Bright has a personal relationship with James Ignatowich, and after “Big Jimmy’s” team topped Bright & Newman in Minnesota, perhaps Anna thought it was more logical to compete with him than against him. him.
Newman didn’t miss a beat, picking up Parris Todd (arguably the best non-PPA player in the world) and creating some interesting storylines in this week’s Mixed competition. In the end though, both Newman-Todd and Ignatowich-Bright failed to really make an impact here, with each team losing in the quarters.
At the end of the day, #1 seeds Johns & Waters won another gold, their third in four attempts so far this year, defeating #3 seeds Tyson McGuffin & Catherine Parenteau in the final.
Gold: Waters & Johns. Silver: McGuffin & Parenteau. Bronze: Irvine & Devilliers.
Men’s Pro Doubles Recap
Tyson McGuffin missed the last few PPA events with a leg problem and is back. He matched the sensation from Minnesota Ignatowich, but couldn’t get past #4 Dylan Frazier & JW Johnson in the quarters. Riley Newman’s tournament continued its poor run with a shock loss in the round of 32 as the #2 seed to partner Tim Parks. This opened the door from the bottom half for number 7 seeds Julian Arnold & Thomas Wilson to advance to the finals.
In the end, though, it was four golds in four attempts for the Johns brothers, who edged out Arnold & Wilson in the gold medal race. Frazier & Johnson salvaged bronze after losing to the Johns brothers in the semi-finals.
Gold: Johns & Johns. Silver: Arnold & Wilson. Bronze: Frazier & Johnson.
Women’s Doubles Pro Recap
Anna Leigh Waters continues to alternate between Anna Bright and Catherine Parenteau as her partner, winning gold each time. This weekend it was Parenteau’s turn and with Waters the two took the gold medal, giving both ladies a “double” for the weekend. Bright teamed up with Parris Todd after falling from the #1 player in the world, but the pair were upset early by top #6 seeds Lacy Schneemann & Jade Kawamoto in the quarters. Schneemann & Kawamoto then eliminated #2 seeds Lea Jansen & Allyce Jones to win a gold medal. Jansen & Jones salvaged a bronze for the weekend.
Gold: Waters & Parenteau. Silver: Schneemann & Kawamoto. Bronze: Jansen & Jones.
Senior Pro Competition Quick Recap
· Men’s Senior Pro Singles: #1 Mark Palus took gold like he did a month ago when APP was at Daytona Beach.
· Men’s Senior Pro Doubles: Altaf Merchant won his fourth PPA Senior Pro Doubles title of 2023 and second in a row with Dave Weinbach, giving up just 16 combined points in three matches en route to the title.
· Mixed Senior Pro Doubles: Senior Pros Julie Johnson & Mircea Morariu took gold with a 4-0 record in the Mixed Senior Pro round robin competition.
Next up on the PPA tour? According to my Master Pickleball Program… a quick turnaround for the pros, flying from Florida to Austin, the current mecca of the pickleball world, for the Austin Showdown.