Jack Sock is set to make his full-time debut on the PPA Tour.

A look Ahead to the PPA Masters

DALLAS, TX - The 2024 PPA Tour opens in Palm Springs on January 9.
It is a new year, so let’s look ahead and see what new stories will be worth following.
1. The debut of Jack Sock
Sock has played in prior PPA events, but The Masters will be different. Now he will be a full-time PPA player, a regular on the tour. Sock brings unparalleled athleticism, but how long will it take him to master the little details that make pickleball different from tennis? He will have a lot of power, but how will he do with long dink exchanges? He will have very fast hands, but what about third shot drops?
I think Sock’s debut is the most interesting story of 2024. I think he will bring a new level of excitement to the game. If successful, his success may well lead to an even greater influx of tennis-to-pickleball converts. Sock’s matches at The Masters will be must see TV.
Sock should have the most initial success in singles. His tennis game will translate most easily to the pickleball court. His length and athleticism will allow him to control the net. His power off drives should lead to successful passing shots. Sock should be a top 10 singles player by the end of 2024, and could well crack the top 5.
In mixed, Sock will benefit from a pairing with Catherine Parenteau. Her high ranking will allow them to get a fairly high seed out of the gate, allowing them to play weaker opponents early on in tournaments, a big advantage most new players do not enjoy. Look for them to make it to the quarters, but further progress will likely take some time.
Finally, Sock is playing men’s doubles with Collin Shick. This pairing will meet with the least early success for Sock. Shick is an odd choice for Sock, as Shick is not a top 50 doubles player. Shick’s relatively low ranking will mean that the pair will get a very low seed. Indeed, they should be one of the three lowest seeds, meaning an opening round match against one of the three highest seeds. My prediction is that this pairing will not last very long. Sock should easily be able to pair up with a player in the top 20. So, look for a slow start for Sock in men’s doubles, until he settles on a higher-ranked partner.
2. A new year, with new partnerships
New players lead to new partnerships, but there will be some new partnerships among veteran players as well. In men’s doubles, Julian Arnold pairs with Christian Alshon. Alshon was my most improved player of 2023, and I predict by the end of 2024, he will be a top 10 player. Indeed, he could easily be the most improved player of 2024! Look for Arnold to resume his high energy play, after wearing down late in 2023. This will be a dangerous pair that no one will want to play.
Tyson McGuffin pairs up with Dekel Bar. It will be interesting to see who plays right/left side with this pair. Both have the flexibility to play either side effectively.
Two pairs that played together some in 2023 but are worth watching are Newman/Wilson and Stone/Martinez Vich. Will Wilson be the partner to stick with Newman? They had some success in 2023. They should make some Sundays if they stay together all year. Stone/JMV had a big upset of the Johns brothers late in 2023. JMV is a player to watch. As with many players, he had initial success in singles. Unlike many singles players, he has developed a good doubles game. Currently ranked #35 in men’s doubles, look for JMV to break into the top 20 by the end of 2024.
In women’s doubles, Lea Jansen pairs with Tyra Black. This pair has all the potential in the world. Black was my most improved player of 2023 on the women’s side. She can play all left side in this pairing, which plays to her strengths. If Jansen can stay focused, and play good defense, this pair has a very high ceiling. Tina Pisnik pairs with Jorja Johnson. Pisnik was runner up to Black as most improved player. This pair will have a lot of power, but will probably be inconsistent.
Finally, in mixed doubles, we see Tyler Loong pair with Genie Bouchard. Bouchard is a total unknown in pickleball. They likely will have a low seed, which could spell doom if they get a bad draw. Seedings and the draw are extremely important, especially to new players without established ranking points. Jansen pairs with Andrei Daescu. It is good to see Daescu on the PPA tour. His domination of the APP tour at this point has become kind of silly. There is no point to having a solid pro in any sport playing in what is a minor league in terms of talent. I for one hope that Daescu plays full time on the PPA tour in 2024.
3. A new year, a new paddle
With 2023 ending, many contracts also ended. Players with expiring paddle sponsorships became free agents, looking for a new deal. We saw McGuffin switch from Selkirk to JOOLA. Riley Newman has put out Instagram teasers about a possible new deal, in light of Takeya exiting the paddle manufacturing business. Along with these two top players, I am sure we will see more players sporting new paddles in 2024. In addition, new manufacturers are always entering the market. Signing a top player to a sponsorship contract is one good way to get your name out there in the market.
The PPA Masters starts soon. I can’t wait to watch. How about you?
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