This Week In the Picklesphere

This Week In the Picklesphere

This looks to be a very interesting week in the pickleball world. We have the PPA finals, to be immediately followed by the MLP season 2 playoffs, both taking place in San Clemente, California. Both events feature fields limited in size. Let’s take an in-depth look at each event and what we can expect to see.


The end of 2023 brings us the PPA Tour finals, featuring the top points-earning players for the year.  The same events will be played, singles, gender doubles, and mixed doubles, but each with a very limited field. Eight singles players and eight teams in each doubles event, with round robins being played.
In men’s singles, Ben Johns will be a heavy favorite.  He will not have to face any relative newcomer playing a tennis heavy style, which has given him some trouble in early rounds in prior events. With just the top 8 playing, no match will be considered easy, but Ben has proven he can typically handle this field. JW Johnson had a good singles tournament the last time out; this may be his chance to show what he can do against Ben.
Prediction: Ben Johns wins gold
In women’s singles, it is hard to see any result other than ALW and CP going 1/2. Last time out, CP had ALW on the ropes, but could not close the deal.  Can Parenteau win the final meeting of 2023?
Prediction: another gold for Anna Leigh Waters
Mixed doubles features many of the same teams we so often see, but also some that are not as common.  The pairs were set by a draft process, where the player with the highest points got to choose their partner. The player with the next highest points who had not yet been picked then choose their partner. The process continued until all players were picked. The one interesting pick was made by Riley Newman, who was #3. After Ben Johns picked ALW, Riley had his pick of any of the 7 other women in the draw. He picked Vivienne David, passing up Anna Bright, CP, and Jessie Irvine, who he had played several recent events with. David is a perfectly fine player and a reasonably good fit with Riley, but it was interesting to see the choice. Most of the other partnerships are as expected, with McGuffin/Jansen and Frazier/Irvine being some new ones.
Prediction: hard to see anyone beating Ben and ALW. The toughest matchup should be against Newman/David, but Johns/ALW have too much power for David to resist.
In women’s doubles, the powerhouse duo of ALW/CP is there, looming over the field. It feels like the only question is who gets second. In the draft, Bright with the third choice skipped Smith, Kovalova, Jones, Jansen, Dizon, Irvine and Wright, to pick David. Interesting choice there. I wonder if there wasn’t some “professional courtesy” involved with many of the picks. Better players were sometimes skipped over, so that regular partnerships could be utilized in the event. Was it all arranged by the players beforehand? Did some players say “don’t pick me, I don’t want to play with you?” Anyway, ALW/CP look to be overwhelming favorites in this event.
Prediction: ALW/CP win easily
Finally, in men’s doubles, we again have the usual partnerships of Ben/CJ, and JW/Dylan. Matt Wright had the 5th pick and wouldn’t it have been interesting to see him pick Riley Newman? Instead, as I had predicted, he skipped Riley to take James Ignatowich. Riley, with the next pick, skipped many players to take Thomas Wilson. Tyson McGuffin, with the next pick, then skipped everyone to take #16 Dekel Bar. We end up with a number of interesting partnerships, including Arnold/Koller and Devilliers/Young.
Prediction: a very interesting field. Can anyone go undefeated? The JW/Dylan v Johns brothers matchup is the marquee contest, but so many other matches will be a lot of fun to watch. Wright/Ignatowich v Newman/Wilson is must-see TV. I will go with a small upset in this event, and pick JW/Dylan to win it all.

2. The MLP season 2 playoffs

The day after the PPA finals are done, the players move over to the MLP playoffs. An abbreviated format this time, with Orlando facing DC and Chicago facing Miami. The Chicago/Miami loser is out; the winner plays the Orlando/DC loser. The winner of that second match faces the Orlando/DC winner in the final.
The Orlando/DC match will again be a war.  DC is the favorite and should win again. In the Miami/Chicago match, the keys are how well Mary Brascia can hold up for Miami and how well Erik Lange can hold up for Chicago. Miami is more balanced, but Chicago has Ben Johns. The Miami/Chicago match just feels like a dreambreaker will occur. I like Miami’s team, but I think Ben Johns will do just enough to pull it out. The next match would be Orlando v Chicago, and I will take Orlando and their depth, setting up another rematch with DC. I will take DC to win it all. DC has been the best team from the get-go. They were the best-drafted team and should have won MLP Atlanta. I expect them to win the MLP final to show they were the best team.
These two end-of-year PPA and MLP events are really interesting. We have some of the same old partnerships, but also some new ones to add some spice. Both events should be a lot of fun to watch.
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