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Jack Sock competing at the PPA Mesa Arizona Cup.
Jack Sock competing at the PPA Mesa Arizona Cup. PPA Tour

Wrapping up PPA Carvana Mesa Arizona Cup

The two tournament Arizona swing on the PPA Tour wrapped up Sunday in Mesa.
 
As with Desert Ridge, there was a lot of great pickleball, some good smack talk on the court, and a lot of storylines to discuss. Let’s go over it all!
 
1. Jack Sock shows he belongs
 
After missing Desert Ridge, Jack Sock was in Mesa, and provided plenty of excitement. His best event continues to be singles, in which he finished 4th. Sock as the 17 seed won three matches, including a win over Tyson McGuffin. He untimely lost to Federico Staksrud 12-10, 11-4. He then had a plane to catch, so quickly lost Sunday to Connor Garnett in the bronze match (more to follow on this amusing match in an upcoming column on my interview with Jack).
 
In mixed doubles, Sock and Catherine Parenteau made it to the quarters, winning a game off ALW/Ben, before losing in 3 games. In men’s doubles, Jack and Collin Shick lost in the round of 16 to Riley Newman and Thomas Wilson, a match featuring a good bit of banter across the net. The players later said it was all in fun. Certainly, Sock likes to “discuss” the match with his opponents as the match progresses.
 
 
Sock’s performance went about as expected. He continues to do best at singles, and is weakest at gender doubles. His power and spin rate are incredible. He continues to learn the dink game and pickleball-specific shots. Expect him to win a gold sometime in 2024 in singles. A medal in 2024 in mixed is likely; however, I am not sure a men’s doubles medal is in the cards for 2024. Collin Shick is a fine player, an improving player, but is not a top 30 player. If Sock is to win a men’s doubles medal in 2024, I think he needs a better partner.
 
2. ALW wins another triple
 
On the women’s side, Anna Leigh Waters continues her domination. No one is anywhere close to her in singles. In mixed and women’s doubles, her side just seems to win all the tough points. Many teams can get to 7 or 8 points, but from that position on, the ALW side just bears down and will not let go of the game. Kudos to her for being so mentally tough. I also want to single out ALW for her continued courtesy to the fans. I have written about it before, but it is worth doing so again. After her women’s doubles win, ALW made it a point to seek out a young fan who had a “GO ALW” sign. ALW gave the young fan a signed paddle. ALW of course had no obligation to make such a kind gesture, but I am sure the young girl who got the paddle had the thrill of a lifetime and will remember it forever. Way to go Anna Leigh.
 
 
3. Ben shows he’s still a force in singles
 
Ben Johns grabbed his first singles gold of 2024. Maybe his early loss in men's doubles drove him a little harder to win singles. He survived a three game match with Julian Arnold and came back in game one against Connor Garnett from down 10-5. In the final, he defeated Fede Staksrud 11-8, 11-4. Had Fede won, the talk might have been that Staksrud was ready to be the #1 singles player. That talk, for now, is quelled.
 
 
4. JW/Dylan prevail in a very difficult men’s doubles draw
 
The men’s doubles event continues to be, for me, the gold standard event. The toughest medal to win is in men’s doubles. Every match is difficult. Even the first round is loaded with teams that are super-tough. By the time you get to the round of 16, every match looks like it could be a medal round match; every quarterfinal match could legitimately be a gold medal match. It is just that difficult. Gabe Tardio and Andrei Daescu knocked off the Johns brothers, relatively easily, 11-6, 11-5, leading to their silver medal. JW/Dylan did not drop a single game on their way to gold. Daescu in particular played great pickleball. His play in the semifinal against Newman/Wilson was as good as you will see. JW/Dylan played a slightly different strategy in the final, leading to their victory. All in all, it was a great men’s doubles bracket.
 
 
5. Here come the kids
 
Mesa featured some really good play by several young players. Cason Campbell had a great run as a 47 seed in singles, ultimately losing in three games to Jack Sock. CJ Klinger came back from a so-so performance at Desert Ridge to make the round of 16 in men’s doubles, losing 12-10 in game three to Connor Garnett and DJ Young. But the best performance was put on by Jack Munro, who teamed with Julian Arnold to make it to the quarters. They played a great match against Matt Wright and James Ignatowich, losing in three close games. Munro is for real. This is not a young player with potential; this is a young player who is a top 20 player already. His backhand is top shelf, as is his defense. I would like to see him add some aggression on the forehand side, but he will improve with more experience. This is absolutely a player to watch.
 
 
6. A new face on the women’s side
 
The women’s doubles event featured a gold medal win by ALW and CP. But the story was in the bronze medal match. A new pairing of Jorja Johnson and Mari Humberg took down Anna Bright and Vivienne David, 11-8, 11-7. Jorja and Mari beat some good players on their way to bronze, including Lucy Kovalova and Callie Smith. Jorja is well known on the PPA Tour, but Mari is known more as an APP player. Mari showed she belongs in the big leagues. Her cut shots off both the forehand and backhand were on, and she showed good power off the forehand. I hope we see Humberg full time on the PPA Tour, and the Johnson/Humberg pairing more in the future. They obviously have potential to be a top 5 team.
 
 
Next up for the PPA Tour is the event in Lakeville, Minnesota, starting on March 6.

Can’t wait to see the best against the best again. In the meantime, enjoy your game.
 
Follow me on Twitter/X @pickleball_jim
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