Tyler Loong competing at the Select Medical Orange County Cup.
Tyler Loong competing at the Select Medical Orange County Cup. PPA Tour

Who is the best lefty in the pro game?

DALLAS, TX - We have about a month off on the PPA Tour, so instead of talking about specific matches, let’s have some fun with more general topics.

Today, let’s look at the question of which pro is the best left-handed player on tour?
I considered including Ben Johns on the list. If you have not seen him play left-handed, you need to watch one of the videos. I think he is a legit 5.0 left-handed, which is just ridiculous. People sometimes say they want to see Anna Leigh Waters try playing in a men’s doubles event; I think I would rather see Johns try playing in a women’s doubles event.
Anyway, on to the serious candidates, of which we have five: CJ Klinger, Tyler Loong, Jack Munro, Augie Ge and Pablo Tellez.
Let’s look at their strengths and weaknesses one at a time, before we pick a winner.
1. Klinger is probably the toughest to fully evaluate. He has not been a regular on the PPA Tour, and thus has played weaker competition than the other four. Klinger did make Premier in MLP. He has played fairly well through two events. He is 9-11 in MLP matches so far, which although it is a losing record, it is not bad for a fourth round draft choice. Klinger has good defensive skills, can drop his way to the line and is an adequate dinker. His offensive game needs more development. He lacks pro level power. With the game moving toward more offense, he will have trouble competing at the highest level, unless he can develop more power, especially off the forehand. For now, his best event is men’s doubles, where he can play right side next to a power left-side player (like Jack Sock in MLP). He is not a singles player, although he is adequate in Dreambreakers. He is not as good at mixed at this point, due to his lack of a strong power game. He is young, so we should expect he can continue to improve.
2. Loong is the most established veteran of this group. At 30, he is the oldest (Tellez is 29). Loong's age shows in his game, as he is the most developed of the five players we are examining. He has all the shots. He can drive, drop, dink, defend, and even throws in a few Ernes. He has no big weakness, although he is also not top shelf at any one skill, other than Ernes. The best description for Loong is “solid”. Anyone who partners with Loong, knows they will get a partner who will play a solid right side game. With so many players favoring the left side, it is not surprising that Loong has played the last year with a lot of top 20 players. His defensive game is slightly better than his offensive game, and thus he is slightly better at men’s doubles than mixed doubles. Loong is probably at the top of his game now. He is still in his prime, but as younger players enter the sport, we can anticipate Loong may slowly drop in the rankings.
3. Munro is a bit of a mystery to me. A year ago, I had him pegged as a hot young player to watch. His performance at the Mesa Arizona Cup earlier this year appeared to confirm he was a player on the rise. I watched him team with Julian Arnold. They made the quarterfinals, beating Tyson McGuffin and Dekel Bar in the round of 16. In the match against Bar/McGuffin, Munro was the best player on the court. However, Munro’s results since then have not quite lived up to the promise. He was not drafted Premier in MLP, getting selected high in the Challenger draft. He should dominate Challnger competition but so far has not. His PPA results have been up and down, lacking any real breakthrough results. Munro is known to be ambidextrous, and he serves right-handed. While such dexterity normally should be a good thing, I believe it is actually holding him back somewhat. Munro’s best shot is his backhand. He is excellent defensively off the backhand, and is solid dinking. But, his backhand is so good that he tends to favor it, even on shots where he should be running around his backhand to hit power forehands. And that leads to Munro’s biggest deficiency; power. His lacks a good forehand drive, a forehand power volley, and even his overhead is somewhat lacking in power. Because of the lack of power (relatively speaking), he is a better men’s doubles player than mixed. As with Klinger, Munro is a good partner for a power left side player. And indeed we see that Munro’s best results have been with Arnold. Munro is young, and thus we can and should expect him to improve. It will all be about the development of power and improving his forehand. If he continues to favor his backhand, his upside will be limited, especially with the game moving to be more power oriented.
4. Ge is not the youngest person on our list, but is the newest in terms of pickleball success. Augie Ge sort of burst on to the scene at the Desert Ridge Open early in 2024. Ge and Tyra Black made the semifinals. Along the way, they beat such solid teams as Matt Wright/Lucy Kovalova, Riley Newman/Jackie Kawamoto, and Munro/Lea Jansen. Before that tournament, I don’t think most pickleball fans had heard of Ge. Since then, he has gone on to success, including being drafted Premier in MLP. His MLP record in 2024 has been solid, at 10-6. Ge can play well in all events. He is equally skilled at singles, men’s doubles, and mixed doubles. He is better defensively than offensively, but his offensive game is improving. He does enter PPA singles events, which forces a player to develop their offensive game. It would be very hard to play singles with any success if you lack a drive off both sides; indeed, we see in Ge’s game that he can bring a drive to doubles off both backhand and forehand. Ge has no particular weakness. Again, as we have pointed out with the other lefties, Ge’s ability to play the right side makes him a sought after partner for men and women who favor the left side. Because he does have some power, he matches well with Black in mixed, as Tyra is best playing the left side. At this point, Ge is probably the most likely to overtake Loong for the top spot, if anyone can.
5. Tellez is similar to Loong. They are close in age. They have many similarities but one big difference is how they dink. Loong stands strong at the line, and when dinking crosscourt, Loong favors taking the ball in the air with his backhand. Tellez, on the other hand, prefers to run around his backhand and dink with his forehand off the bounce. This preference often pulls him somewhat out of position. In addition, Tellez rarely if ever speeds up off the forehand dink, and thus his running around his backhand offers no reward. Tellez has been driving more on his thirds, but has an error rate that is a bit too high. He has good power and is very good at Ernes. His backhand counter is fairly good, although he is prone to a few too many errors if sped up to his forehand. Tellez enjoyed some good results partnering with Federico Staksrud, but Staksrud recently ended that long-time partnership. Both Staksrud and Tellez have had some success with new partners, although it is too soon to tell who will get the better end of that deal. Tellez has also had some success in mixed, primarily with Etta Wright. Tellez is a solid singles player.  Overall, Tellez is somewhat similar to Loong, with Loong being a bit more consistent.
So, those are our five contenders for best lefty in the pro game. At this point, I would rank them in order Loong, Ge/Tellez (tied), Munro, and Klinger. Munro and Klinger have the most room to improve with Ge close behind. If we do this ranking again in a year, it could well change. Especially for Munro and Klinger, their improvement will be closely tied to their dedication to the game. If they drill/practice long hours every day, Munro and Klinger can be as good as they want to be. I do expect Ge to move up and likely claim the top spot, but not perhaps for a year or maybe two. Loong and Tellez are not exactly old, and they will not give up their high rankings easily.
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