Tom Evans enjoyed an outstanding singles run in Southern California.
Tom Evans enjoyed an outstanding singles run in Southern California. PPA Tour

Impressions from day three of Select Medical Orange County Cup

SAN CLEMENTE, CA - Day three was another beautiful day in San Clemente. Temperatures in the 70s, with no wind, hard to beat that. Play was the Round of 16 in all events, with players looking to secure a spot in Friday’s quarterfinals.

At this point of the tournament, every player and every doubles team is very talented, so the level of play was off the charts, with lots of close matches.
1. Argentina defeats Australia. Tom Evans, the new face on the scene from Australia, had a nice run. He won four times in the men’s singles qualifier and won two matches in the main draw. But his dream run bumped into #1 seed Federico Staksrud. Staksrud was apparently able to hit the ball hard enough, and defeated Evans in two games to move on.  It will be interesting if we see the Pro from Down Under again, and whether he can show pickleball ability beyond singles. Either way, it is great to see players from around the world competing on the PPA tour.

2. Round of 16 matches are tough. Looking around the various event results, we see how close so many of the matches were. From Ben Johns winning 11-9, 11-9 over Naveen Beasley, to Tyson McGuffin/Parris Todd winning 11-9 in the third game, to James Ignatowich/Tyler Loong winning 11-8 in the third. Lots of closely fought matches and I’m sure the quarterfinals will be more of the same.
3. Not so tough for ALW. On the other side of the coin, we have Anna Leigh Waters running over the competition. She lost only 18 points (and zero games) in her three matches. She appears to be marching toward a triple crown. ALW’s dominance leads to a reasonable argument that she is further ahead of the #2 woman (Anna Bright or Catherine Parenteau) than the #2 is from the #15 woman. Watching ALW play singles is to watch a cat play with a mouse. She has more power, more accuracy, more pace, better placement, a batter serve, and a better serve return than anyone else. She is not just the #1 woman overall, she is #1 in every category of skill. We see some signs of the rest of the men’s pickleball world catching up to Ben Johns. There is no such sign on the women’s side. If anything, she is more dominant today than ever before.
4. Playing hard on the key points. The top players are obviously good at all times. But, watch Ben Johns when the score is 8-8 or later.  He just dominates those points. He seems to win just about every close game. It’s the pickleball version of “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.”
The PPA tour will be back in action Friday, with quarterfinal play in all five events.

If you can, get out to the beautiful Life Time fitness facility in San Clemente. It is worth the trip.
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