Lucy Kovalova competing at the Select Medical Orange County Cup.
Lucy Kovalova competing at the Select Medical Orange County Cup. PPA Tour

Impressions from Day One at Select Medical Orange County Cup

SAN CLEMENTE, CA - Tuesday dawned bright and sunny in San Clemente. Temperatures were in the mid 70s, excellent weather for pickleball.

Monday was qualifier day, so Tuesday was day one of the main draw action. As this event features a progressive draw, there was action in every event.
Here’s a few things that caught my eye:
1. What a great venue. The San Clemente Life Time Fitness is a beautiful facility and it has been adapted well for a pickleball tournament. The courts are well laid out, and center court looks awesome. Easy for spectators to get around and see the action. If you can make it, it’s worth a look see.
2. Even pros need some coaching. I watched one match in men’s doubles where one team had one player who was obviously superior to his partner, and it was not particularly close. The other team, however, did not seem to recognize the disparity, and hit too many balls in game one to the better player. Of course, they lost 11-2. Another pro, a friend of mine, saw the same thing I did, and before game one, told the team “hit it to the weaker player”. They did and easily won game two. However, in game three they failed to follow the game plan, and went back to giving the better opponent too many balls and they lost the match. It was yet another reminder that even pros need coaches during a match. In the heat of battle, it is just too easy to lose focus. I helped several friends today with simple coaching tips during their first round matches. Simple reminders about opponent’s weak points, and what patterns are winning ones are helpful to all players, 3.5 or pro.
3. Men’s singles is HARD. The men’s singles draw is brutally difficult. There were 105 players in the men’s singles QUALIFIER draw! Of those 105 players, eight made it to the main draw. The main draw then had 56 players. So, just to make the main draw, a qualifier had to win four matches. Of the eight qualifiers to make the main draw, five won their first round match and get to come back for Wednesday play. That’s a lot of work!
4. The overall skill level keeps rising. Watching matches on Tuesday, you have to keep reminding yourself that this is first round action. The skill level of first round play today is easily comparable to gold medal play just 4-5 years ago. Indeed, first round play today is probably superior to gold medal play of 2020. The players keep getting better and better. Every match features shots worthy of Sportscenter.
The top seeds will all be in action on Wednesday. It will be great to see it.
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