Tyson McGuffin competing in MLP last season.
Tyson McGuffin competing in MLP last season. MLP

MLP is back: A first look at MLP Atlanta

MLP returns, beginning Thursday, at Life Time Peachtree Corners.

The event will last from Thursday through Sunday, with Premier and Challenger matches every day. The schedule of matches has been announced.

Let’s look at each day of Premier matches, pointing out the highlights and trying to pick a few winners.
1. Thursday
There are only two matches on opening day. The first is an afternoon match between Texas and Columbus. This is a great match to start off with, as the two teams are both likely to make the playoffs. But, someone has to lose and start 0-1. Columbus should have the edge in men’s doubles, with Riley Newman returning to action beside Connor Garnett. They will face Christian Alshon and Pablo Tellez. Texas should have the edge in women’s doubles, with Etta Wright teaming with Tina Pisnik to face Meghan Dizon and Brooke Buckner. So, the match should come down to mixed doubles. We will have to see what mixed teams Columbus sends out; Texas is likely to go Alshon/Pisnik and Wright/Tellez, two tough pairs. This one feels like a Dreambreaker waiting to happen, which would be a great way to start the season.
On Thursday night, New York will take on Columbus, so no time off for Columbus. New York features Jack Sock, teaming with CJ Klinger, Jackie Kawamoto, and Lea Jansen. It will be Sock’s first MLP match, so expect him to be fired up and playing to the crowd. Columbus is the clearly superior team, so we will have to see of Sock’s emotional play can lift New York to an upset. Columbus should win 3-1.
2. Friday
Friday features a full lineup of 5 matches. The headline match should be the first one in the morning, with Texas coming back to play Dallas. This Lone Star State battle has Dallas sending out JW and Jorja Johnson with Tyra Black and Premier rookie Augie Ge. This is another match featuring two teams that should both make the playoffs. A great test for both teams and another one that looks like it will need a Dreambreaker to decide it.
New York and Jack Sock are back in action twice on Friday, once against Dallas (which Dallas should win), and once against New Jersey. New Jersey’s lineup has Anna Leigh Waters with Mari Humberg and Zane Navratil with Will Howells. Much will depend on how the two Premier rookies (Humberg and Howells) handle the bright lights. New Jersey is a slightly better team, so look for them to take down New York.
Texas is back in action against St Louis. St Louis features Anna Bright, Hayden Patriquin, Gabe Tardio, and Kate Fahey. St Louis’ success is going to be all about surprise pick Fahey. Can she hold up against this level of competition? Texas probably has too much for St Louis, so should win 3-1, if not 4-0.
The final Friday match has New Jersey facing LA, in LA’s debut match. LA has Catherine Parenteau, Jade Kawamoto, Thomas Wilson, and Hunter Johnson. This is a very even match, which could go either way. It will be interesting to see ALW and CP on opposite sides of the net in one or two matches. This is yet another matchup that could well go to a dreambreaker. Who wouldn’t want to see ALW v CP in Dreambreaker action?
3. Saturday
Saturday has a long lineup with six matches. The Arizona Drive headlines Saturday, playing three different matches. Arizona’s lineup is Andrei Daescu, Dylan Frazier, Lacy Schneemann, and Kaitlyn Christian. Arizona’s success will depend again on another Premier rookie, Kaitlyn Christian. Christian has been playing excellent singles at PPA events, but needs some work on doubles, especially mixed. Arizona will be an underdog against Columbus, and a favorite against New Jersey. Arizona’s third match of Saturday is against DC, in DC’s opening match. DC’s lineup is James Ignatowich, Dekel Bar, Rachel Rohrabacher, and Allyce Jones. The AZ/DC match is another one that could go either way.
Orlando also makes its debut on Saturday, against St Louis. Orlando has Federico Staksrud, Tyson McGuffin, Vivienne David, and Parris Todd. A lot of talent on Orlando, but a little bit oddly constructed with two women who are both best as right side players. Orlando should be tough at men’s and mixed doubles. Look for Orlando to defeat St Louis.
St Louis also plays LA on Saturday. Bright v Parenteau in two matches would be fun to see. St Louis is the better team on paper and should win this one.
The final Saturday match is DC against Columbus. Columbus should have the advantage in this one. Look for a 3-1 win by Columbus.
4. Sunday
Sunday is the last day of MLP Atlanta, but is by no means least. Sunday has six more matches. The featured match is the last one of the day, Texas against Orlando. Men’s doubles should be a war, with Alshon/Tellez v Staksrud/McGuffin. Obviously, Tellez and Staksrud know each other’s game very well. This will be the first time they face each other after ending their long time PPA partnership. These are two teams that should make the playoffs, so look for another Dreambreaker here to decide it.
DC is in action twice, once against St Louis and once against Dallas. DC should take care of St Louis, although Dallas will be the favorite in the other match. The DC/STL matchup will feature Anna Bright going against her PPA doubles partner, Rachel Rohrabacher. One of the great things about MLP is the ability to see new matchups and players facing opponents they do not normally play against. Bright/Rohrabacher should have some nice firefights for all to enjoy.
St Louis will also face Arizona. The Arizona men will need to dominate to win this one. Of course, with Arizona taking two men in the first 13 picks in the draft, their strategy has to be for the men to dominate and carry the team. The match against St Louis will test that strategy.
LA will start off Sunday action against Dallas. Dallas should dominate this matchup.
The final match of Sunday is New York against Orlando. Can Jack Sock’s power win this one for New York? Probably not. Sock’s power game translates worst against veteran players who can handle the pace. Orlando, with Staksrud and McGuffin, will not be overpowered. Look for Orlando to win this one.
5. Predictions
In MLP 2024, team get 3 points for a win, but only 2 if the win was in a Dreambreaker. A Dreambreaker loss is worth 1 point.  Seattle and Utah are not in action at MLP Atlanta, so obviously they will end the first event with zero points. As to the other 10 teams, here’s my prediction of their point totals after Atlanta:
11    Dallas
10    Columbus
7      Arizona/Texas/Orlando
5      DC
4      STL
3      NJ
2      LA
1      NY
0      Utah/Seattle
Tune in beginning 2pm (EST) on Thursday for what should be a great opening match to a fantastic event.
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