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Ben Johns competing at the Mesa Arizona Cup in February.
Ben Johns competing at the Mesa Arizona Cup in February. PPA Tour

A look ahead to the PPA Veolia Austin Open

Not much rest for the pros, as we move right from Minnesota to our next PPA stop, this time in Austin. We had a number of new or unfamiliar winners and medalists in Minnesota. Can it continue in Austin? Or will we see more Triple Crowns?
Let’s take a look at each draw.
1. Men’s singles
Ben Johns returns to action, looking for his second gold in a row (for tournaments he played in). Can he do it, or will the great depth we have seen so far in 2024 mean we will have another new gold medalist in men’s singles this year? Ben will have plenty of competition. Federico Staksrud has cemented his status as the #2 singles player in the world. I’m sure he would love another crack at Ben, to try to wrest away the status of the #1 player. Staksrud has a relatively easy draw, although every match from the quarters on will be tough. Meanwhile, even though he is the #1 seed, Ben Johns has a tougher draw than Staksrud. It looks like Johns will have to work his way through a potential quarterfinal against JW Johnson and then a semifinal against the winner of Garnett/Sock round 3. Whoever wins this event will have earned it. Men’s singles is the most competitive event right now to win.
2. Women’s singles
Catherine Parenteau appears to have a fairly easy road back to the finals. Difficult to see any lower seed winning in an upset this week, but one to keep an eye on is #6 seed Lina Padegimaite. Lina has been playing well, improving each tournament, and has a reasonable draw. For an even lower seed to watch, keep an eye on #14 Liz Truluck. It is only a matter of time before Truluck beats a high seed and breaks through to a quarterfinal or even a semifinal. Could this be that week?
3. Mixed doubles
Obviously, the return of both Ben and ALW gives us a clear favorite for gold in mixed doubles. Vivienne David and Thomas Wilson enjoyed the top seed last week, taking their first gold in mixed together. Another final matchup of these two top seeds is certainly a possibility if not a probability. Both have very reasonable roads to the semis. The other two quarters of the bracket are very tough to predict. Federico Staksrud and Rachel Rohrabacher return to pair together. This is a pairing to watch. They are a #13 seed, but their ability is far above that seeding. Look for them to potentially upset the #3 seed of JW/Jorja Johnson in what should be a very good match. Jack Sock and Catherine Parenteau have dropped to a #6 seed. They potentially face what would be a fantastic quarterfinal match against #4 seed Anna Bright/Andrei Daescu. But each of those pairs faces some tough opponents before they can face each other. This mixed draw will feature some of the best pickleball of the week.
4. Women’s doubles
No surprise but ALW/CP return as the #1 seed and overwhelming favorites to win it all at women’s doubles. They potentially face the winner of a very interesting possible round of 16 match between Jorja Johnson/Tina Pisnik and Brooke Buckner/Lina Padegimaite. Assuming that matchup occurs in the round of 16, it should be quite a battle. On the other side of the draw, Etta Wright/Meghan Dizon draw the #2 seed, while the hot pair of Anna Bright/Rachel Rohrabacher have the #3 seed. Both have difficult draws, but that potential semifinal would be a great match. Look for Bright/Rohrabacher to do well, and they are the team that should be the one to break the ALW/CP winning streak one day. Will this be that week?
5. Men’s doubles
Last, but certainly not least, is the men’s doubles draw. Collin Johns gets his little brother back at his side, after seeing how pickleball life is without him (not so good). They look likely to face #3 seed Fede Staksrud/Pablo Tellez in the semis. The #2 seed is Dylan Frazier/JW Johnson who, like Staksrud/Tellez, appear to have a reasonable draw to the semis. The fourth semifinalist is much harder to predict. The #4 seed is a new pairing of Andrei Daescu and Matt Wright. The combination should work, as Wright can now return to his better side on the right, after being a fish out of water on the left last week. But they have some tough competition in their quarter of the bracket. Jack Sock and Collin Shick lurk as a dangerous #19 seed, although they will have to get by #5 seed Dekel Bar/Gabe Tardio. If Sock/Shick do get to face Bar/Tardio in the round of 16, look for a very fast game, with lots of power drives and speedups.
The pace of play has been increasing each event this year. In Minnesota, we saw matches where drops were almost non-existent. The Vulcan ball rewards topspin drives and aggressive play, so watch for that to continue this week in Austin. Power players have been doing well, but as always the players who can counter the best have the advantage. The counter remains the most important shot in pro pickleball, and the players/pairs that counter the best will win the hardware in Austin. Tune in for must see pickleball, as the best battle the best at the PPA Veolia Austin Open.
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