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Record-Breaking Pickleball Nationals at Brookhaven

Innovation and Challenges Amidst Pro and Amateur Excitement

Pablo Tellez
Pablo Tellez (Image credit: Nick Uzunyan)

A few weeks ago, the biggest ever pickleball tournament was played in Texas, at the Brookhaven Country Club. This tournament had over 4,000 participants between the Pros and Amateurs, and according to USA pickleball, over 50,000 people in attendance. Nationals and the US Open, seem to me, to be the two tournaments each year that are more like a vacation/party than a tournament, I think that is what makes them so popular. This year, they had a whole street shut down that was filled with vendors and lots of fun things for the spectators and participants to do. Also, this Nationals was a little different than in the past, as USA pickleball partnered with the PPA Tour to run it. This meant that the world’s best, Ben Johns and ALW (Anna Leigh Waters) were able to go to it. 

On the Pro side they debuted a new format called a progressive draw, where one round of each event was played each day. This meant that you would play your round of 32 match in singles (best ⅔), mixed doubles (best ⅗),and gender doubles (best ⅗). This is interesting because it means you have to be switching your style from one match to the next. Traditionally, you play one event to its conclusion each day except for the championship which is held Sunday for each event. So, this format is a little harder mentally in my opinion. What people liked the most is because the matches were at set times, they were able to see their favorite players at the appointed time.  Normally, it is hard to know when specific athletes will be playing.

The biggest story of Nationals was not the Pros however, on the Amateur side we saw a lot of pushback as there were big issues. To list some of the big ones: not enough toilets, the courts were so close for the amateurs it was hard to play, it rained and the draws got shortened or canceled altogether (which is, of course, not the fault of anyone; it just exacerbated the complaints). I have heard talk that next year, due to all this, Nationals may be moved again. This has been the overriding complaint by amateurs to the PPA all year long which is they do not feel valued and they feel that they are wasting their time and money going to the events. Will we see changes in 2024?

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At just 21 years old, New Jersey native Richard Livornese, Jr. is a rising star in the professional pickleball world and a member of the 2023 APP Next Gen National Team. Initially a college lacrosse player at Stevens Institute of Technology, Richard switched gears to pickleball during the COVID-19 pandemic, co-founding a pickleball academy in his hometown and setting his sights on professional competition. Most recently he has committed to a three-year contract with Major League Pickleball, 2024 through 2026. Richard is an aggressively enterprising person and athlete that is not only finding success on the court, but plans to use his influence to promote the sport’s growth. As a regular contributor to Pickleball Portal, he provides valuable insights through news articles, reviews, and how-to guides. richard@pickleballportal.com

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