Rachel Rohrabacher competing at The Masters to begin the new PPA Tour season.

What we learned from the PPA Masters

DALLAS, TX - The first PPA event of 2024, the PPA Masters, is in the books. Let’s take a look at what we saw, and how pickleball is changing in 2024.
1. The year of the lob
I have long advocated for more lobbing in pro pickleball. We saw a significant increase in lobbing at The Masters. Male pros can be difficult to lob because of their height and athleticism, but women pros can often effectively be lobbed. Indeed, we saw a significant increase in lobbing. The Brascia sisters, the Kawamoto sisters, Lauren Stratman, and Rachel Rohrabacher, to name just a few players, all incorporated more lobs in their doubles game. Lobbing in the dink game is especially effective. Expect to see more as we move further into 2024.
2. New paddles everywhere
There was a lot of discussion about pros switching paddles. It was hard to keep track of them all. One thing that was clear is that paddles are getting better. The newer paddles generate more spin, so topspin shots are being used more. The newer paddles generate more power, so we see more drives, more speedups, more firefights.
3. Ben Johns’ total domination of singles is over
Ben has a history of winning the vast majority of singles events he enters. Those days are over. He will still be a great singles player, and maybe the best, and may win the most golds, but his days of totally dominating the event are over. Other players are catching up, and the new paddles assist that progression. It will be interesting to see Ben try to hold off the new power players.
4. Not all tennis converts are successful
Jack Sock had a mostly good debut as a PPA regular. As expected, he did best in singles, and his weakest event is men’s doubles. His enormous power can be handled by top men pros in doubles. It will be fun to see him develop a soft game to go with all that power. On the other hand, Genie Bouchard was not ready for prime time. It was almost as if she had not played the game before. Bouchard’s difficulty demonstrated that pickleball does take practice, no matter how much tennis talent you bring to the court.
5. Blast ball is taking over women’s doubles
One of the best stories of 2023 was the emergence of Rohrabacher. She was a late round Premier pick in MLP who played like a champion. Could she keep it up in 2024 in PPA events? Well, The Masters answered that question with a yes, as she and Anna Bright got to Championship Sunday. They did it by playing blast ball — unrelenting power, drives, speedups, always forcing the pace. Their matches featured few dink points. After a couple of dinks (if any), it was time to speed it up. Many players had trouble handling their power game. The days of the female defensive specialist playing the right side may be over. Bright and Rohrabacher just ran over defensive players like a truck.
6. Players on the rise, players likely to fall
The names of the top 10 players of 2024 are likely to look differently than the top 10 players of 2023. We saw some new faces getting further in each draw. We also saw some familiar names struggling. It was only one event, but expect to see a top 10 men’s and women’s list in each event that looks a bit different from last year.
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