San Clemente PPA Pickleball Tournament

Singles in San Clemente: Comeback Artists Steal the Show

SAN CLEMENTE, CA - Christian Alshon’s first and last matches of the day at the PPA Finals didn’t start the way he would have liked. In his first match of pool play against Jay Devilliers, he dropped the first game 5-11.

In his semifinal match against Federico Staksrud, he dropped the first game 2-11. But the 23-year-old came back to win both of those matches in convincing fashion.

Alshon, who has been working more on his mental approach to pickleball recently, credits his ability to maintain focus in tough moments to a breathing rule that he’s been trying over the last few weeks.

“I can get mad after I lose a point, but only after I take three breaths,” he explained. “I can break a paddle if I want, but I have to take three breaths before I make that decision. And every single time, I’ve chosen not to get mad after the three breaths.”

In the semifinals against Staksrud, Alshon found himself down 0-7 after dropping the first game. And as he clawed his way back into that game, the former collegiate tennis player found his flow state that allowed him to take his play to a whole other level.

“You definitely know when you’re in the zone and you’re just ripping and you feel like you can’t miss,” he shared. “What I try and do when I get into that zone is just try and do as little as possible with my mind so that I stay there.”

Alshon won game three decisively 11-0 to make his first Championship Sunday in singles since July.

He’ll be taking on Ben Johns, who he pushed to three games when they met in pool play earlier in the day. Their match turned out to play a crucial role in determining which two players would advance to the semifinals from their group that also featured Connor Garnett and Jay Devilliers.

Along with Alshon and Johns, Garnett also finished pool play at 2-1. The tiebreaker between the three was point differential through all games played.

This made a big difference for Johns going into the deciding game against Alshon, since he had lost to Garnett earlier in the day.

“In game three, it helped me focus more to know the points were really important,” Johns said. “And when every point counts and you’re really focusing on every ball, I feel like you play better overall.”

Johns certainly brought his best in that game three, besting Alshon 11-1 to push his point differential past both Alshon’s and Garnett’s and knock Garnett down into third place and out of the semifinals. He kept his level high for his semifinal clash with Tyson McGuffin and came away with an 11-2, 11-7 victory.

Top seeds Anna Leigh Waters and Catherine Parenteau will meet in the singles final on the women’s side, but it wasn’t an easy journey for any of them to get there.

Waters dropped the first game in two out of her three pool play matches but was able to emerge from those matches undefeated. In the semis, she faced tour veteran Irina Tereschenko, who she fended off in two back-and-forth games, 13-11, 11-9.

Parenteau faced her own share of challenges on the day, struggling to find her best form at times. But she found her usual high level in her semifinal match against Mary Brascia.

“I had a really hard time getting into rhythm the whole day,” she admitted. “And then I really felt in the zone in the semifinal match. I felt like I played some pretty good pickleball.”

Her win sets up a rematch of the epic women’s singles final at Nationals that Waters took in three games after fending off several match points from her doubles partner.

Play continues Friday with mixed doubles.