Lea Jansen competing at the Veolia Houston Open.
Lea Jansen competing at the Veolia Houston Open. PPA Tour

Wrapping up PPA Veolia Houston Open

The latest stop on the PPA Tour was in Houston, Texas, for the Veolia Houston Open.
Notably absent was Anna Leigh Waters, which meant the women’s events were wide open, as well as the mixed doubles. The tournament saw some nice runs by lower seeds, as well as some expected performances from veteran players.
Let’s look at the highlights for each event from a great tournament.
1. Men’s doubles
Ben and Collin Johns, seeded #1 as usual, had little trouble capturing gold in this event. They did not lose a game en route to a fairly easy gold. #3 seed Federico Staksrud and Pablo Tellez got the silver; they played well, up until the gold medal match, but unfortunately did not do much to challenge the Johns brothers this time. A couple of young players with potential showed their talent in this event. Seeded #13, veteran Rafa Hewett teamed with Will Howells to make the quarters, beating #2 seed James Ignatowich and Matt Wright along the way. Seeded #18, Jaume Martinez Vich and CJ Klinger also made the quarters. Howells and Klinger were both drafted Premier in MLP and this event showed their draft status was justified. Martinez Vich demonstrated he is capable of making a run with variety of partners; excellent progress for a player previously seen as a singles specialist.
2. Men’s singles
The big story here was the victory of #10 Quang Duong over Ben Johns in the quarters, 11-5, 11-9. Ben had been on a run, winning several golds in a row in singles, but Quang stopped that run and again showed the depth of the draw in men’s singles. The loss by Ben opened the door to #2 seed Federico Staksrud taking the gold over Duong. Staksrud had been steadily making final after final and his persistence paid off in this event. A nice run was made by #35 seed Donald Young, who finished 4th. Young is a former pro tennis player. He showed that Jack Sock is not the only talented former tennis player to switch over to pickleball in 2024.
3. Women’s doubles
The absence of both Anna Leigh Waters and Catherine Parenteau allowed Rachel Rohrabacher and Anna Bright to be seeded #1 and they took full advantage of the opportunity. They cruised to the gold medal, losing only 22 points in their first 4 matches and not dropping a game the whole event. A nice run was made by the fairly new pairing of Lea Jansen and Tina Pisnik. Seeded #8, Jansen and Pisnik won the bronze, beating top pair Meghan Dizon and Etta Wright along the way. If Jansen and Pisnik can stay together, they have the potential to be medal contenders every tournament.
4. Women’s singles
Once again, the absence of ALW and CP created a wide open event. Lea Jansen, often the bridesmaid never the bride, took full advantage of the weaker draw to take the gold medal as the #2 seed. Jansen had been so close so often, but this time she took no prisoners, winning the final 11-3. 11-2 over surprise finalist Samantha Parker. Parker, seeded #19, acquitted herself remarkably well. She defeated #1 seed Mary Brascia along the way to a well earned silver medal.
5. Mixed doubles
The #1 seed this week was Anna Bright and James Ignatowich. However, they withdrew due to Ignatowich having lingering pain in his shoulder from an earlier injury. It appears James may have come back a week or two too early. We can all hope the withdrawal is not serious and that he can come back 100%. With the #1 seed out, the tournament was controlled by #2 seed Etta Wright and Ben Johns. The fact Ben chose Wright as his partner this week speaks volumes about Wright’s skills at doubles. They lost only 1 game on their way to the gold. In the final, they defeated #11 seed Tina Pisnik and Dekel Bar. This was another fine performance by the Pisnik/Bar team, as well as Pisnik’s second medal of the tournament. It is well past time to recognize Pisnik as a top 10 talent on the women’s side. Indeed, she is verging on top 5 status. Another “close but no cigar” performance was put on by #8 seed Rachel Rohrabacher and Federico Staksrud. They lost to bronze medalists Jessie Irvine and Pablo Tellez 12-10 in the quarters. This is about the 4th straight close effort by Rohrabacher/Staksrud. They continue to lose close 3-game matches.  It is only a matter of time before this pair breaks through.
Next up on the PPA Tour is the Veolia LA Open beginning April 17, to be followed by the Selkirk Red Rock Open in St George, Utah on April 24.

Both events should feature nice weather and, of course, great competition. If you live in those areas, come on out and watch the pros play up close and in person. If you can’t make it there in person, tune in to see the best against the best.
Follow me on Twitter/x @pickleball_jim