Ben Johns Pickleball Doubles

PPA Finals Pickleball Mixed Doubles Shows the Value of Partner Synergy

SAN CLEMENTE, CA - One of the main storylines from the PPA Finals Draft was the excitement surrounding all the new mixed doubles partnerships that would be on display in Southern California.

Some of these new partnerships included Riley Newman playing alongside Vivienne David and Thomas Wilson joining forces with Catherine Parenteau.

Even though they—and everyone else who qualified for this event—are all obviously great mixed doubles players on their own, Friday’s matches demonstrated one thing clearly: the importance of partner synergy.

The four pairs that made the semi-finals (James Ignatowich and Anna Bright; Ben Johns and Anna Leigh Waters; Matt Wright and Lucy Kovalova; JW Johnson and Jorja Johnson) have all been playing together for at least the majority of the 2023 season. In the case of Wright and Kovalova, it’s much longer.

Each of the other four teams had not played an event together in 2023—and for a few, it was even their first time on the same side of the court,

These pairs went a combined 1-9 against the teams that had played together this year.

The exception here is the duo of Newman and David, who went 2-1 in pool play, but missed out on the semi-finals by point differential.

The more-established mixed doubles teams put on quite the show. Ignatowich and Bright came out firing on all cylinders, going 3-0 in group play, while also beating Johns and Waters for the first time in the day’s opening match.

In the semis, they took on the Johnsons in a rematch of the same round at Nationals. Ignatowich and Bright claimed the victory in Dallas, but it was the Johnson siblings that prevailed in three games in San Clemente.

The Johnsons had to face a different look with Bright switching to the left side after Ignatowich began experiencing leg cramps in game two, but they tried not to let changes from their opponents impact their own play.

“We knew we just had to be really patient and keep doing what we had been doing,” explained JW.

That discipline helped propel them over the edge for an 8-11, 11-7, 11-9 victory.

The other semi-final featured Johns and Waters taking on Wright and Kovalova.

The World No. 1s had too many weapons at their disposal for their opponents and booked their spot on Championship Sunday with an 11-2, 11-4 victory.

The pair was all-business in the semi-final, and Waters says it was their ability to turn the frustration from their earlier loss into motivation that helped them raise their level.

“After the loss this morning, I think Ben and I were just coming out for some redemption,” she revealed. “We’re just super happy to be out here playing aggressive.”

These semi-final results set up a rematch of the gold medal match at PPA Florida, where Waters and Johns prevailed in four games.

Play continues Saturday with men’s and women’s doubles.