Good vibes and great drives: Christine Maddox is a name to watch in pro pickleball
DALLAS, TX - It’s not every day that you play your first pickleball singles tournament.
It’s also not every day that you compete in the pro draw.
And it’s certainly not every day that you almost beat the No. 2 ranked singles player in the world.
But each one of those was part of Christine Maddox’s experience at the PPA Masters.
Like many pickleball pros finding their way into the sport nowadays, Maddox comes from a high-level tennis background. The Santa Monica, CA native played NCAA Division I tennis at Pepperdine University, where she was named an Intercollegiate Tennis Association All-American in doubles for her senior season.
From there, though, her journey took a different path. She played high-level POP tennis (also called paddle tennis) for five years after graduating while also pursuing a professional tennis career.
When her POP tennis mixed doubles partner came over to pickleball in August of 2022, Maddox reluctantly followed and decided to give it a try.
As she got more into the sport, Maddox had to adjust to the nuances of the game that make pickleball different from other racket sports.
“The first few months were rough, a mixture of love and hate as I tried to figure out the differences between tennis, paddle tennis and pickleball,” she recalled. “But like most pickleballers, I was hooked!”
A few months later in November, she played 4.5 mixed doubles at the PPA’s Takeya Showcase and came away with a gold medal.
Just as things were really starting to look up for the rising pickleball star, however, she suffered a knee injury that kept her off the court for three months.
Given her experience overcoming injuries from her extensive athletic background, Maddox wouldn’t let this new challenge phase her.
“I knew an injury could not hold me back from fulfilling my highest potential,” she shared. “The fight, discipline, and never-give-up attitude that I have had all throughout my collegiate and professional tennis career had prepared me for this exact scenario.”
She competed in her first pro event the following August, just a year after being introduced to the sport, and qualified for the main draw at the Takeya Showcase in Los Angeles.
Maddox continued making appearances in pro main draws for the rest of 2023.
But, that was only in doubles.
In fact, it wasn’t until just a few weeks before the Masters that her ‘pickleball family’ convinced her to give singles a try.
Observing the similarities between tennis and pickleball singles, the former collegiate standout decided to enter the pro singles draw in Palm Springs.
Coming into the event as the No. 30 seed, she won her first three matches without dropping a game to set a Round of 16 clash against No. 2 seed Catherine Parenteau.
Maddox started out slowly, dropping the first game of the affair 11-1. She bounced back from there, though, and evened things up by taking the second game 11-4 behind her rare combination of length, power and speed.
When all was said and done, it was Parenteau who advanced after taking the deciding game 11-8.
Despite the loss, Maddox had only positive takeaways from her first singles tournament experience, and she enjoyed having her father (‘Daddox’ as she calls him) in the stands.
“I truly could not have hoped for a better result in my first singles attempt, and I had an absolute blast out there with the crowd and with my father being able to watch me compete again in a sport that I love,” Maddox said. “I want to have fun with the sport, and I want everyone to have fun with me—that’s the vibe.”
Her ‘vibe’ is perhaps most evident in her attitude and positivity on the pickleball court.
“Pickleball tournaments are so different from tennis tournaments in that the vibe of the crowd really helps make the event, and I wanted to enhance that experience for everyone else there taking a day to come watch some high-level pickleball, and for myself as well,” she said.
In her match against Parenteau, the 27-year-old felt especially at home with the music ringing out over Humana Championship Court.
“When I play rec games and train, music is always playing in the background and I will ALWAYS be dancing, singing, and staying loose in between points, so I wanted to bring that same energy and really get the crowd involved during my match as well, especially with DJ Selkirk laying down some dance-worthy hits!” she mentioned.
Maddox also relies on another source of inner strength to keep her mojo on the court: Reiki, the Japanese method of energy healing.
As a sports medicine Reiki Master and herbalist, she appreciates how Reiki requires a similar level of dedication as high-level sports.
“Like any spiritual practice, Reiki requires discipline and consistency, which is very much in alignment with the discipline and grit required to play sports at the professional level,” Maddox explained. “Being a Reiki Master helps me reset after each point in pickleball and move forward with a sort of ‘zen tenacity’ that allows me to have fun in the sport and also gain balance outside of it.”
She kept up her strong start to the year in her second singles event at last week’s Desert Ridge Open, where she captured first place in the women’s singles pro bonus bracket.
The vibes are undoubtedly good, and the arrow is certainly pointing upwards for Christine Maddox.
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