Cason Campbell competing at PPA Minnesota earlier this season.
Cason Campbell competing at PPA Minnesota earlier this season. PPA Tour

A look ahead to the PPA Veolia Houston Open

Next stop on the PPA Tour brings us to Houston.
The draws are up for all events at the Veolia Houston Open, so let’s take a look at each draw and note the highlights.
1. Men’s Singles
Ben Johns is seeded first, with Federico Staksrud second. Both have reasonable draws and it would surprise no one if these two meet again in the finals. Jack Sock is sitting this one out, but we have the usual collection of tough players including Christian Alshon, Connor Garnett, and Jaume Martinez Vich. For anyone looking for a longshot who could do some damage, we have Cason Campbell as a 22 seed. Cason is capable of beating anyone in a singles match. Another possibility is Yates Johnson as a 31 seed.
2. Women’s Singles
The main feature of the women's singles draw in Houston is who is not in it. No Anna Leigh Waters, no Catherine Parenteau. Their absence leaves the field wide open. Unlike most women’s singles draws, this event in Houston could be won by any one of about ten different women. Top seed this week is Mary Brascia. She is a fine singles player, but in nowhere near the sure-fire top seed that ALW is. This tournament provides the best opportunity for a gold for Lea Jansen. Lea has been close several times, but has come up short against ALW. As the #2 seed, Lea has a very reasonable draw.  For a lower seed to watch, keep an eye on Kaitlyn Christian as a #7 seed. Christian is equal to anyone in this draw, and a gold medal for her in this event would not be a surprise.
3. Mixed Doubles
The absence of ALW from this tournament means the top seed is not a Ben Johns pairing. Instead, the top seed goes to Anna Bright/James Ignatowich. Ben is in the draw, paired with Etta Wright, and they have drawn the second seed. Vivienne David/Thomas Wilson have the third seed and a possible semifinal match against Wright/Johns. An interesting new pairing is the 6 seed, Tyra Black/Dylan Frazier. This pairing likely forces Tyra to play the right side, which is not her best side, so I do not expect this pair to fare that well. For a lower seed to watch, keep an eye on #8 seed Rachel Rohrabacher/Federico Staksrud. I have said for a while that I expect this pair to be the next duo to regularly make noise every tournament and to start making runs to medals. They came close last week in North Carolina. They have a pretty good draw this week, so I look for them to make their first run to at least a semifinal this week. Once they break through, expect Rohrabacher/Staksrud to regularly receive a top 5 seeding.
4. Men’s Doubles
Ben and Collin Johns are back as the top seed. They have a fairly easy draw, so expect to see them go deep in this tournament. One interesting new pairing is #4 seed Dylan Frazier/Yates Johnson. This duo matches two players who typically play the right side. It will be interesting to see who plays left, or if they play straight up, something done relatively little in today’s pro game. They have a reasonable draw, but I would not expect them to go very deep in this event. There are a number of lower seeds that are interesting. At #13, we have veteran Rafa Hewett pairing with up and comer Will Howells. Howells is a strong player on the APP tour, so it will be interesting to see how he does against the much tougher competition on the PPA tour. Howells was recently selected in the MLP Premier draft, so he definitely has talent. Next to watch is the #18 seed, CJ Klinger/Jaume Martinez Vich. JMV just won a silver medal with Augie Ge in North Carolina; can he enjoy similar success with another young lefty? They have a very reasonable draw, but I don’t expect JMV to have the same success he did with Augie. Finally, for an outside seed that I expect to see bigger things from, watch out for #11 seed Jack Munro/Julian Arnold. Last time these two paired up, at Mesa, they played very well together and had a nice run. Their draw is decent, but not great. But I expect their talent and synergy could lead to a deep run.
5. Women’s Doubles
With the absence of ALW/CP, the top seed goes to Anna Bright and Rachel Rohrabacher. The top seeds had a bit of a hiccup last week in North Carolina. However, I believe that was mostly related to the wind/weather. I would look for them to score the gold medal this week. The main threat standing in their way is the #3 seed Etta Wright/Meghan Dizon. Expect to see Wright/Dizon v Bright/Rohrabacher in a semifinal that will determine who wins the gold. The lower half of the draw is weaker than the top half. Seeded second is the pair of Callie Smith/Lucy Kovalova, coming together after playing with other partners last week in North Carolina. They have a relatively easy draw, and if they cannot make the finals with this draw, it may be quite a long time before they return to a final, if ever. For an interesting lower seed, Tyra Black and Parris Todd re-up together and are a dangerous #9 seed. They are in the weaker lower half and thus could make a significant run.
The absence of Anna Leigh Waters and Catherine Parenteau make the women’s events wide open at the PPA Veolia Houston Open. It should make for great viewing, either in person or on TV. As always, there are some new pairings and it is always interesting to see if a new duo can make a deep run. The competition is tough, but several people have a chance to win medals who do not usually make a medal appearance.

If you are in or near Houston, you should go to the event and see the best play the best. For everyone else, it is must see pickleball TV.
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