Nationals gold caps Merchant’s flawless campaign on Senior Pro Tour

Nationals gold caps Merchant’s flawless campaign on Senior Pro Tour

DALLAS, TX - When you think of pickleball dominance, names like Ben Johns and Anna Leigh Waters come to mind. And rightfully so, because the pair have accounted for nearly 70% of all PPA gold medals in 2023.

On the senior pro tour, though, another player has reached a comparable level of dominance in men’s doubles: Altaf Merchant.

Going into his first year on the senior tour, the financial advisor and father of three had just one goal: win gold at the US Open Pickleball Championships in April.

“I told everybody that if I can win the US Open and lose every other match, then it would be a great year,” shared Merchant.

He’s done the former, and so much more.

Prior to the National Championships, Merchant had entered 15 senior pro men’s doubles draws in 2023.

He came to Dallas with 15 gold medals, but was eyeing one more in his final tournament of the year to cap off a perfect season in the event.

Despite his success in this division, the Owensboro, KY resident has adapted to the more dink-heavy rallies of the senior tour.

“I’m a counter-puncher, so I like people to hit the ball with power,” explained Merchant. “The senior pros are dinkers and softer and more creative.”

This change in gameplay has also forced Merchant to adopt a more aggressive on-court role now that he is not competing against players in their 20s like Johns, JW Johnson and Dylan Frazier.

“They’re all these young athletic studs that were born after I graduated college,” he joked. “All of a sudden in the senior pros, I’m the young guy.”

Though the former professional tennis player turned pickleball enthusiast has played with five different partners this season, he has stuck with fellow pro and mental performance coach Dayne Gingrich for the major events.

The lefty appreciates his partner’s intricate gameplans.

“He’s very methodical, so I like that,” mentioned Merchant. “But, it’s tough because he’s not gonna tell you, ‘Dink cross-court.’ He’s gonna tell you, ‘Dink at [Scott Crandall’s] third toe when his finger is turned to the left.’ The guy is that precise.”

Everything came together for Merchant in his last tournament of 2023 as he and Gingrich claimed gold without dropping a game.

The perfect season is complete.

Although Merchant doesn’t plan on playing any more pickleball tournaments through December, his adventures aren’t quite finished yet. He’s getting married on Dec. 9.

After that, he hopes to use his three-year contract with MLP to bring a team to new heights as a player-coach.

“I really feel like I can help a team,” he said. “I can be a mentor and a coach.”

No matter what role he takes on and what his future has in store, one thing’s for sure: Altaf Merchant’s pickleball story is nowhere near finished.