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Anna Leigh Waters returning a point during a PPA tournament.
Anna Leigh Waters competing on the PPA Tour during the 2024 season. PPA Tour

A look ahead to PPA North Carolina

Next up on the PPA Tour is the Fanatics Sportsbook North Carolina Cup. The tournament begins April 1, and will use a progressive draw.

As usual, let’s look at each pro event and see the new pairings, the interesting matches, the possible upsets, and make a few predictions.
1. Women’s singles
Anna Leigh waters is back after a one tournament break and she is a heavy favorite. She has a pretty easy draw. If there is one favorite I had to bet the house on, ALW in singles would be that favorite. Catherine Parenteau is seeded two, and also has a reasonable draw. Expect her to make at least the semifinals. Facing CP in the semis is likely to be the winner of a round of 16 battle between Salome Davidze and Kaitlyn Christian. Davidze continues to play top singles, while Christian is one of the most improved players on tour. Either is a threat to make the medal stand but only one can get past the round of 16. Expect ALW to face Lea Jansen in the other semifinal.
2. Men’s singles
Like Jason in the Friday the 13th movies, for Ben Johns we have to say “he’s back!” He started slow in 2024, but his singles game is gaining steam with each tournament. One month ago, we wondered when he would win a singles title; now we wonder when he might lose one. Ben has a pretty easy draw; very few of the really good singles specialists are in this event, so he may well just roll through it. Federico Staksrud is seeded two, but is on the tougher side of the draw. An interesting part of the bracket focuses on #4 seed Connor Garnett. Connor always seems to play Jack Sock in singles, and they may match up once again in the quarters. But, for Sock to get there, he first has to deal with Jaume Martinez Vich. JMV and Sock will likely play in the round of 16, a battle worthy of a gold medal match. If JMV or Sock make the final, they will have earned it. The more likely scenario is that Garnett/Sock/JMV wear each other out, letting us see another Johns v Staksrud final.
3. Women’s doubles
The one seed is ALW/CP, and the two seed is Anna Bright/Rachel Rohrabacher. Easy to imagine that these four will see each other in what would be another epic final. Bright/Rohrabacher have a fairly easy road, but the path to the final for ALW/CP is a little tougher. They likely have to face Etta Wright/Meghan Dizon in the semis. Wright/Dizon are capable of beating anyone. Interestingly, Lucy Kovalova and Callie Smith are both in the event but not playing with each other. I had predicted earlier this year that this long time partnership would break up. Is North Carolina the sign my prediction has come true, or is it a one-off blip? Lucy is playing with Jackie Kawamoto, while Callie is playing with Lea Jansen. For even more intrigue, those two pairs are scheduled to meet in the quarters, barring an earlier upset. Both have picked partners who more closely mirror their own game. Lucy, a defensive player, has chosen the defensive-minded Jackie Kawamoto, while Callie, a more offensive player, has picked the offensive-minded Lea Jansen. Lucy playing with Jackie will put a defensive player on the left side. While Jackie plays left side with her sister, it is not her better side. On the other team, will normally left-sided Callie move to the right when playing with Lea? Women’s doubles has moved much more toward an offensive style. Look no further than how Bright and Rohrabacher have employed a super-charged offensive style to challenge to be the #1 team. Will the Callie/Lea emphasis on offense overcome the defense of Jackie and Lucy? If that match happens, it will be one of the highlights of the tournament. A real study in contrasting styles.
4. Men’s doubles
The top seed is of course Ben and Collin Johns. Can they return to form after a relatively poor performance the last time out? Second seed goes to Matt Wright and James Ignatowich. James returns after missing a couple events with a shoulder injury. The Johns brothers have a fairly tough draw. Thomas Wilson/Christian Alshon look to be waiting for them in the quarters, a tough matchup. We also have quite a few interesting partnerships with lower seeds. Augie Ge and JMV team up as a 14 seed; a 14 seed that is capable of beating anyone. They will likely face the #2 seed in the round of 16. Tyler Loong and Julian Arnold team up as an 8 seed. That is a good natural pairing where both players can play their preferred side. Look for them to make the semis in a small upset. A couple of very solid teams that up to now have been APP-oriented are entered in this event. Seeded 22 are Hunter and Yates Johnson; seeded 27 are Anderson Scarpa and Greg Dow. Each have reasonable draws to potentially make the round of 16 or even the quarters. We will have to see how they do against top competition.
5. Mixed doubles
The mixed event starts with #1 seed Ben Johns/ALW. They have a fairly reasonable draw, until the semis. Second seed is Anna Bright/James Ignatowich. Third seed is the hot pair of Thomas Wilson and Vivienne David. Wilson and David got a tough draw, with a potential quarterfinal against #10 seed Federico Staksrud and Rachel Rohrabacher. If Fede and Rachel stick with each other, I expect that pair to have a breakthrough tournament very soon, and rise to challenge the very top teams in mixed. One very interesting segment of the bracket has McGuffin/Dizon playing Bar/Pisnik in the round of 16, along with Sock/CP playing Callie Smith/Jay Devilliers also in the round of 16. The winners of those two expected matches would play each other in the quarters. That’s a tough draw! Expect the unexpected with these round of 16 matches as the competition is all medal-worthy.
North Carolina is Jack Sock’s backyard tournament. Will that give him the extra motivation to break out and medal in one or more events? Beyond Jack, there are lots of new/interesting partnerships. As always, the PPA will offer the best playing against the best. If you are near North Carolina, get a ticket and get to the event. There is nothing like seeing these top players live.
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