Jack Sock competing at the PPA Masters in January.
Jack Sock competing at the PPA Masters in January. PPA Tour

A look ahead to PPA Mesa Arizona Cup

DALLAS, TX - The PPA Tour is back in action this coming week, still in beautiful Arizona. The weather is expected to be in the low 70s, perfect for pickleball. The crowds at Desert Ridge were huge, and with Phoenix being such a pickleball hotbed, we can expect more big crowds in Mesa. With perfect weather, and the best players in the world going head to head, it should be a great event.
Let’s take a look at each draw and highlight some interesting players to watch.
Men’s Doubles
Dylan Frazier and JW Johnson are back in action. They should again be a top seed and a threat to win it all. As has been typical with 2024 events, we have quite a few new/different partnerships of note. Julian Arnold comes off a successful week with Christian Alshon to pair with the youngster Jack Munro. Alshon meanwhile has paired up with Zane Navratil. CJ Klinger is back, this time with Jaume Martinez Vich. Gabe Tardio also returns, paired with Andrei Daescu.
But the biggest news may be the return to PPA play of Jack Sock. Sock will be playing with Collin Shick. Sock’s matches are must see pickleball and expect filled stands with standing room only for the fans.
Expect the usual pairs of the Johns brothers, Tellez/Staksrud, Wilson/Nemwan, etc., to dominate. The one “outsider” pair I would watch out for is Navratil/Alshon. Navratil has shown he understands the characteristics of the Vulcan ball, and Alshon continues to play well.
Men’s Singles
Dylan Frazier returns to singles. We will see if he can continue his excellent singles play. Once again we will have classic matchups, with veteran pickleball players like Ben Johns, Tyson McGuffin, and Federico Staksrud, against the up and comers like Jaume Martinez Vich, Chris Haworth, and Gabe Joseph. The up and comers will be joined by Jack Sock. As we have seen, men’s singles has become extremely competitive, an event no longer dominated by Ben Johns. Can Ben capture his first singles gold of 2024? Or will the up and comers knock him out again, short of a medal? It would not be a big surprise for Jack Sock to be the #1 singles player by the end of 2024. Will we see that talent shine this early, now that Sock has more pickleball experience? It will be fun to watch.
Women’s Doubles
The question as always in women’s doubles is whether anyone can beat Anna Leigh Waters and Catherine Parenteau. Some new pairs will take the court next week to challenge them. Rachel Rohrabacher takes a week off, so Anna Bright will pair with Vivienne David. Bright’s full-on offensive style has meshed well with Rohrabacher’s similar game; how will Anna play when paired with a defensive specialist? Lauren Stratman will be playing with Lea Jansen. Tine Pisnik is playing with Jessie Irvine. Lacy Schneemann plays with the returning Irina Tereschenko. Tyra Black will now play with Parris Todd. It is hard to see anyone likely to beat ALW/CP. One pair to watch is Meghan Dizon/Etta Wright. Both players are playing well and improving.
Women’s Singles
Once again, the lesser depth on the women’s side makes it look like a CP v ALW final is likely. Two players to watch, going in opposite directions, are Kaitlyn Christian and Genie Bouchard. Christian medaled at Desert Ridge and has shown great potential. I expect her to do well in singles; her potential, for now, in doubles events is limited due to her not having high level partners. Bouchard did not play well (to be charitable) at her first PPA event. Hopefully, she has practiced pickleball since then and will have a better showing.
Mixed Doubles
Finally, in mixed doubles, the question will be whether anyone can beat Ben and ALW. We have some new pairs to challenge them. Lea Jansen teams with Andrei Daescu. Christian Alshon pairs with Jessie Irvine. Rafa Hewett is playing with Tyra Black. This is a good pair for Tyra, playing with a lefty. It allows Tyra to play left side, her much stronger side.
Jack Sock returns to play with Catherine Parenteau. They had limited success last time, expect to see some improvement. Sock’s size, athleticism, and power should make him a good mixed player sooner than he is likely to have success at men’s doubles. Another pair to keep an eye on is Pablo Tellez and Etta Wright, They had two match points at Desert Ridge against Ben and ALW. Both Pablo and Etta played great at Desert Ridge. Hopefully, they can continue their high level play in Mesa.
Every PPA event is filled with great players and great pickleball action. Mesa will be more of the same, with the additional excitement that Jack Sock will bring to the table. Watching players on TV is nice; but nothing beats attending an actual event, where you can see the players in action from 10-15 feet away. Come on out to Mesa, or if you cannot make it to Mesa, go to your nearest PPA event when you have a chance. 
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