Anna Leigh Waters hitting a two-handed backhand.
Anna Leigh Waters at the Veolia Sacramento Open. PPA Tour

Waters: “Pickleball is an equal opportunity sport”

DALLAS, TX – Female athletes are dominating the professional sports conversation right now. 

Enter one of the greatest collegiate basketball players of all time, Caitlin Clark, whose pro debut with the WNBA's Indiana Fever was the most-watched game in league history with 2.1 million viewers on ESPN.

Then there's the University of Oklahoma softball team, which recently captured a fourth consecutive NCAA Championship.

And in pro pickleball, World No. 1 Anna Leigh Waters surpassed Ben Johns for the most Triple Crowns in PPA Tour history.

Women in sports are definitely trending... to the delight of Waters, of course.

“Growing up, I was playing soccer, tennis and pickleball, and because I was playing a ton of pickleball, I never really thought about the fact that in some other sports, women weren’t paid equally or weren't watched as much,” said Waters. “Pickleball has always been a sport where the women have been watched just as much as the men.”

At the CIBC Texas Open, FOX even extended the broadcast of the championship match in women's doubles by 45 minutes so viewers could catch the final outcome.

There's definitely a hunger for men's and women's pickleball at the highest level.

“I’m excited for a new generation of girls to grow up into the pickleball world where everybody is treated equally and everybody is paid the same,” stressed Waters. “As I get older, I realize that’s not the case in every sport, but hopefully we’re going in the right direction and we’re getting there in every sport.”

That is truly one of the bright spots in pickleball. Not only can women play alongside men and generate equally exciting matches, but the popularity of the men's and women's games is equal, too. 

Unfortunately, if I asked people on the street to name three pro women softball players, I’d be lucky if I got one correct response. But, if I asked about pro baseball? I’d likely get hundreds of names. 

This is such a common issue that ahead of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, an advertisement went viral featuring a highlight-reel of women’s soccer clips that appear like all the plays were made by men. It revealed viewers' personal biases that are less favorable to female professional sports leagues.  

But pro pickleball? Now that’s a different story. On name recognition alone, Waters is just as well-known as Ben Johns. 

That’s a rarity compared to the vast majority of other pro sports. 

Waters even made the Forbes 30 Under 30 list in 2023.

With the success she has achieved at such a young age, she serves as an outstanding role model, especially for the Junior PPA girls.

“I’m very proud to say that my sport is an equal opportunity sport,” concluded Waters.