Jack Sock competing at the Selkirk Red Rock Open in Utah.
Jack Sock competing at the Selkirk Red Rock Open in Utah. PPA Tour

A final look at the PPA Selkirk Red Rock Open

The PPA Selkirk Red Rock Open, presented by PickleballCentral.com is now history.

What a tournament it was! We had just about everything in St. George - wind, a little rain, upsets, Ernes galore, epic comebacks, first time finalists, and as always world class play by the best players on the planet. 

So much to discuss, let’s go over it all.

1. Jack Sock makes a final
Jack Sock remains must see pickleball, win or lose. His power and athleticism and awesome to see, and the simple joy he brings to the court makes his matches fun for the fans. Seeing a Jack Sock match is like waiting for a SportsCenter highlight to happen. Every match features at least one jaw-dropping shot. His run to the singles finals had it all, a double pickle of Michael Loyd (who is a darn good singles player), a 3 game nail-biter with Quang Duong, a couple of fun power matches with Hayden Patriquin and Christian Alshon, and then an epic final with #1 Federico Staksrud. Give me more Jack Sock, win or lose. Of course, lots of credit for Staksrud too, who won the 3 game final, and continued his amazing run of singles finals.
2. Tyson McGuffin is a rock
Some doubts have been expressed about Tyson and whether he is still among the top 10 players. From what I saw at Red Rock, those doubts are misplaced. He made the medal round in singles. He had a great match in singles with newcomer Noe Khlif (more on him later), where he came back from down 9-4 in game one to run out 7 points to win the first game and go on to win the match. In men’s doubles, he and Dekel Bar were down a game and 7-0 in game 2 to Hayden Patriquin and Callan Dawson, only to come all the way back and win. Tyson’s defense was amazing all week. His all around game was excellent, but he was putting on a clinic for defensive, right side play. Whatever injuries he may have had before are healed and he was on top of his game. It was great to see.
3. Keep an eye on Noe Khlif
In doing commentary on grandstand court, we almost always know a lot about every player called to the court. This week, my partner and I had to admit we had never heard of the opponent of Jay Devilliers coming up, Noe Khlif. Some quick internet research told us he was a former French Junior tennis champion, and a former Big Ten tennis champ. With that background, we expected to see a banger, with great groundstrokes, but a suspect game at the kitchen.  Boy, were we wrong! Khlif and Devilliers proceeded to play perhaps the most entertaining singles match I have ever seen. They played doubles in a singles match. Almost every point featured cat and mouse play; constant chips, drops, angles, cut shots, with amazing court coverage. Khlif prevailed, in a memorable match. Khlif then played Tyson McGuffin, and we again were treated to doubles-type play by both players. Noe had a 9-4 lead in game one, but Tyson used his veteran knowledge to change things up, and a series of powerful forehands turned the tide. I spoke to Noe after and he admitted he was (understandably) out of gas. I told him he had a lot of game and he would do well at doubles quickly, which is unusual for a tennis convert. Sure enough, Khlif and his partner Robert Slusky as #38 seeds, made it to the quarters, where they played the Johns brothers, ending their run. Watch out for Noe Khlif. He will be working his way up the PPA ladder.
4. A great week for Lea Jansen
With Anna Leigh Waters and Catherine Parenteau out this week, things were open for other women to step up and take advantage. None did so more effectively than Lea Jansen. Jansen took home a silver in singles and a gold in women’s doubles with Tina Pisnik. Pisnik and Jansen were steady the whole event and stayed laser-focused in the final, defeating Anna Bright and Callie Smith. Jansen, who sometimes can be her own worst enemy by letting frustration get the best of her, was on top of her mental game, staying steady at all times. She was patient in the dink game, waiting for an opening before attacking. It appeared she has had some good coaching and followed that advice to be positive and patient.
5. Mary Brascia wins a gold
In women’s singles, Mary Brascia took home the gold as the top seed. She had a few bumps along the way, but met every challenge before her. She only lost one game the entire event, and had to grind out a very tough 3 game win in the final over Lea Jansen. Mary and her sister are both well-coached and make solid in-match adjustments. Her game shows the benefit of courtside coaches, but of course the deserved credit goes to her for executing the right strategy.
6. A possible change at the top of men’s doubles?
There were a number of big stories at Red Rock, but none bigger than what happened at men’s doubles. In one semifinal, Andrei Daescu and Gabe Tardio defeated Ben and Collin Johns. But, that hardly tells the story. The real story is not that they won, but that they won 11-0 in game 3! The Johns brothers rarely lose a semifinal, and if they have ever been pickled before, I can’t remember it. I took a photo of the scoreboard after the third game, as I doubt we will ever see an 11-0 score go against the Johns brothers again. Daescu and Tardio won a match where the vast majority of play was a dink contest between Ben and Andrei; and, it was Andrei who got the best of that exchange. In singles, people have questioned whether Staksrud has caught and passed Ben Johns as the #1 player; I say no, not yet, as Staksrud has not proven he can beat Ben. In doubles, it is now a reasonable question to ask whether Daescu has caught up to Ben as the best player. I am not ready to crown Daescu, but it is a reasonable issue to raise and something to keep an eye on. Of course, we have to point out that in the final, Daescu and Tardio lost to JW Johnson/Dylan Frazier. This is the second final this year where JW/Dylan defeated Daescu/Tardio. JW, Dylan, and Gabe practice together all the time, so it appears JW/Dylan know the secret sauce to beat Daescu/Tardio. Look for Collin Johns to watch some tape and change strategy next time out against Daescu/Tardio.
Next up on the PPA tour is the Vizzy Atlanta Open, presented by Acrytech. It begins May 13.
The Atlanta Open is back-to-back with MLP Atlanta, so we can expect just about everyone to be playing in this event. More to come on what will undoubtedly be another great tournament.
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