Ben Johns preparing to hit a pickleball serve.
Ben Johns and Etta Wright competing at the Selkirk Red Rock Open. PPA Tour

Wright, Johns battle to make semis

ST. GEORGE, UT - The last time Etta Wright and Ben Johns played against Callie Smith and Jay Devilliers in mixed doubles, they got the job done in three games at the Veolia Houston Open.

Their quarterfinal clash against the familiar foes ended in the same way on Friday, though a new strategy from Smith and Devilliers presented a challenge for the No. 1 seeds.

That strategy featured keeping Devilliers on the right and Smith on the left, which is uncommon in mixed doubles where the male player usually plays the left side.

This change created a new pattern that essentially took away the female-to-female dink rally that is such an integral part of mixed doubles matches and instead forced Johns to adopt and even larger role on the court.

“It gives me more liberty to move over, and that’s what I have to do because I don’t have to cover my line as much when the ball’s not going over there,” he said. “It’s really just about moving your feet to get all the way over to the right side and taking a bunch of balls to apply pressure and also take pressure away from your partner.”

Wright and Johns emerged from the encounter with an 11-6, 8-11, 11-3 victory to book their spot in the semifinals.