Cason Campbell competing at the Mesa Arizona Cup last month.
Cason Campbell competing at the Mesa Arizona Cup last month. PPA Tour

A look ahead to PPA Minnesota

The PPA Tour moves to Minnesota this week, for the Pickleball Central Indoor USA Championships. Several big names are sitting this one out, most significantly Ben Johns and Anna Leigh Waters, leading to more suspense about who might make the finals and take home a gold medal. Let’s look at each event and see if we can spot some favorites.
1. Men’s Singles
Men’s singles has been the most competitive event so far this year, with no repeat winners. Ben Johns’ absence makes Federico Staksrud the favorite. Jack Sock returns, looking for his first singles medal, but he drew a tough draw. Cason Campbell, coming off a great run in Mesa as a #43 seed, moves up to a #22 seed. He obtained a pretty good draw, so we may see another good run from him. Watch out for singles specialist Gabe Joseph, a #6 seed. He has a favorable draw and could make some noise. Staksrud is the favorite, but will have a lot of competition in this tough event.
2. Women’s Singles
As with men’s singles, the absence of ALW leads to a wide-open draw. Catherine Parenteau is the #1 seed and is a deserved favorite. But Lea Jansen is a strong #2 seed, and has a favorable draw. This is Lea’s best chance for a gold medal in a long time. For a longshot, look out for Kaitlyn Christian, the #12 seed. She has a reasonable draw, and is fast improving. She is a threat to win it all.
3. Mixed Doubles
Once again, we have to note the absence of Ben/ALW, leaving the draw with no clear favorite. Vivienne David and Thomas Wilson, coming off their silver medal performance in Mesa are the #1 seed. But, they will have lots of competition. Anna Bright and Collin Johns are the #2 seed, and obtained a very favorable draw. However, mixed is typically not a strong event for Collin, so an early upset there is definitely possible. Catherine Parenteau teams up again with Jack Sock. Had they been given the Bright/Johns draw, I would pencil them in for Sunday; however, they have a difficult draw. They may still make it to Sunday, but will have to earn it. For a longshot, look at the interesting #12 seed of Rachel Rohrabacher and Federico Staksrud. They will play a power game and have a lot of potential.
4. Women’s Doubles
With no ALW/CP combo, we have another wide open field. Parenteau, although at the tournament, chose not to play women’s doubles. It would have been interesting to see her paired with someone besides Anna Leigh. Lucy Kovalova and Callie Smith enter as the #1 seed, and have a very easy draw. However, I would make the favorite the #2 seed of Anna Bright and Rachel Rohrabacher. Anna and Rachel have shown they can beat Kovalova/Smith fairly easily. Watch out for the #7 seed of Andrea Koop and Tina Pisnik. That pair will have a lot of power and could make a run to the final.
5. Men’s Doubles
Finally, in men’s doubles, many of the usual top pairs will be absent. No Ben Johns, no Riley Newman, no James Ignatowich means that the usual top seeds are not here. This week Colin Johns will play with Matt Wright. They benefit greatly from being the #1 seed, even though I would put them as no better than about the 4th best team. They will have some difficulty in that both players are best off on the right side, playing defensively. The best pairing is clearly the #2 seed, Fede Staksrud and Pablo Tellez. This tournament is their best opportunity for a gold. Unfortunately, they drew a very tough draw. Jack Sock and Julian Arnold are the #9 seed, even though they are the second best team on paper. A quarterfinal matchup between Staksrud/Tellez and Sock/Arnold is likely. That match should be the gold medal final, but will instead be must see TV in the quarters. It is interesting that Sock is playing with Arnold, even though his regular partner, Collin Shick, is playing in the event. I had predicted at the start of the year that the Sock/Shick partnership would not last long. Shick is a fine player, but not on Sock’s level. When partners are mismatched like this in ability, the partnership typically does not last long. Will Sock/Arnold be a pairing that lasts beyond Minnesota? Other teams to watch out for include Christian Alshon/Thomas Wilson and Jay Devilliers/Patrick Smith.
In summary, with several top players sitting out Minnesota, the event is pleasingly wide open. Each event may have a favorite, but no overwhelming favorites. Instead of the top 4 seeds making it to the semis, expect to see some lower seeds make strong runs. All in all, it should make for good competition and good TV. Tune in starting Thursday, I know I will be watching.
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