Anna Leigh Waters competing at the Veolia Sacramento Open.
Anna Leigh Waters competing at the Veolia Sacramento Open. PPA Tour

A final look at the PPA Veolia Sacramento Open

The latest stop on the PPA Tour is in the books. It featured some hot temperatures, big crowds, new partnerships, and, as always, the best pickleball in the world. The medal stands had a lot of familiar names, but also some surprises.

Let’s go over the major stories from the Veolia Sacramento Open.
1. The more things change, the more they stay the same
To the surprise of no one, Anna Leigh Waters won another triple crown, with gold medals in singles, women’s doubles, and mixed doubles. But, what was notable was the ease of her victories. In singles, ALW did not lose a game. While that is not so unusual, what was amazing was that in five matches, she lost only 22 total points! That is an average score of 11-2.2. Her performance in singles was beyond dominance. In women’s doubles, she and partner Catherine Parenteau also did not lose a single game on their way to a gold. In five matches, ALW/CP lost a total of 29 points, for an average score of 11-2.6. Again, total dominance. In mixed doubles, ALW and partner Ben Johns again did not lose a single game in five matches but the scores were often close. In half the games played, the opponents scored 8 or more points. So, dominance, but not excessively so. Quite a week for ALW.
2. Change was in the air on the men’s side
While nothing changed on the women’s side, I was a very different story on the men’s side, at least in men’s doubles. The draw this week featured a lot of new partnerships and many performed well. But, none better than the new pairing of Federico Staskrud and Hayden Patriquin. Staksrud had ended his partnership with Pablo Tellez in the belief that they had peaked, and a partner switch might benefit him. Two tournaments into the switch, it looks like Staksrud may have a point. After taking a silver with Matt Wright, this week Staksrud went one step further, capturing gold with first-time finals player Hayden Patriquin. Staksrud played dominating left side pickleball for the second tournament in a row. This time, he had a partner who played dominating right side pickleball. Patriquin, who usually plays left side, showed that his game can translate well to the right side. Patriquin was steady on the dinks, but his best feature was his blocking and countering. He showed super quick hands and left opponents with nowhere to speed up. In the final, Staskrud and Patriquin took down JW Johnson/Dylan Frazier, who were looking for a four-peat. Johnson/Frazier usually dominate at the line, especially in hands battles but not this match. Look for Staksrud and Patriquin to team up more in the future. How can they not?
3. The return of Riley Newman
Riley Newman has been missing from the PPA. After missing several months of events, he returned to play mixed with Etta Wright and men’s with Gabe Tardio. The question was whether he would be the Riley of old or if he would be rusty? The answer was both. In mixed, Riley and Etta had an impressive quarterfinal win over the hot pair of Thomas Wilson and Vivienne David, winning 13-11, 12-10. In the semifinal, they gave Anna Bright and James Ignatowich all they could handle before losing 11-8, 8-11, 11-9. Newman and Wright played well, but also had some conflicts in the middle, certainly a product of Newman not practicing much lately and it being a new partnership. But the result was promising. In men’s doubles, Newman and Tardio had a huge quarterfinal win over Ben Johns and James Ignatowich, 12-10, 11-9. For much of this match, Newman was the best player on the court; however, for some of the match, he was the worst player on the court. Newman showed off his speedup skills and pancake forehand, but at other times missed simple dinks. Some long sessions on the practice court should get him back in full playing shape. The partnership with Tardio looks solid.
4. A disappointing week for Jack Sock
Jack Sock remains a work in progress. But this was a particularly disappointing performance this week. In singles, he was knocked out in the round of 16. In mixed, where he has a top partner in Catherine Parenteau, he lost again in the round of 16. But the most disappointing performance was in men’s doubles where he was partnered with top player Thomas Wilson. In men’s doubles, Sock/Wilson lost in the round of 32. Sock’s results in men’s doubles up to now may have been excused due in part to his partnering with Collin Shick. Shick, while a fine player, is not a top 30 doubles player. Wilson is a top 10 player. Losing with Wilson so early has to hurt and may damage Sock’s ability to get top partners.

Next up in MLP Washington DC. That event begins June 13. MLP Washington will see the first matches for two teams, Seattle and Utah. Seattle means that Ben Johns will be there. We should have a much better idea of who the likely six playoff teams are, coming out of DC.

If you can’t be there in person, tune in to watch all the action.
Follow me on Twitter/x @pickleball_jim