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Showdowns and Surprises: The Texas Open PPA Tournament Recap

Lucy Kovalova PPA 2024 (Picture Kerry Pittenger)

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This week we’re covering the Texas Open for the PPA. Once again, we had a lot of rain coming in. There were some delays, but we were able to get through the entire weekend. It was a ton of fun. We had a lot of controversy as well as some incredible matches.

Men’s Singles

Alright, first up, let’s talk about men’s singles. We’re going to start at the semifinal match. It’s Ben Johns taking on Dylan Frazier. So singles day was a little bit weird. We had a really long rain delay, and by the time we got to see the semifinal matches, they were all just on YouTube. Pickleball TV ended, but the coolest part about that is there are no commentators, so you can hear everything the players are saying. Like Ben Johns complaining about the bounce of the Vulcan ball. “Let’s go, Vulcan.” It was really getting to Ben, this Vulcan ball. This is the last tournament they’re going to use this particular Vulcan ball. It was 9-1, then 9-2, Dylan Frazier up big in this first game. So Ben got it back to 9-5, it was Dylan Frazier’s serve and he goes crosscourt, comes over and hits it clean in the corner, gets it to a game point. Now Ben’s got it to 10-9, trying to tie this thing up at 10, but Dylan Frazier pulls away at 11-10, he’s got game point on his paddle. Can he pull it off? Two-hand backhand by Mr Frazier. Oh, it’s called out by Ben though… After I watched the reply, it was a good call, it was definitely out. So Dylan Frazier lost his chance at game one. Ben Johns, 12-11, game point for him, and Dylan puts it in the net. So Ben was down 9-1, came all the way back and won it 13-11 here in game one. Game two, not even close. Ben up 10-1 on match point and seals the deal. So Ben heads to the finals.

That means that Dylan is heading to the bronze medal match. And guess who he’s playing—Federico Staksrud. Mind you, Federico has made it to the finals every single tournament this year for the PPA, and now for the first time, Federico did not make it. He got beat by Christopher Haworth in the semifinal match.

The interesting thing about that is on qualifier day, so that was Wednesday, PPA announced that the Joola Gen 3 is not allowed to be played with. To catch up on that drama, the USAPA removed Joola from their approved paddle list. Now technically, this wasn’t because it’s an illegal paddle and it didn’t pass the test. It was some sort of clerical error. Joola came out, they said that it was because they sent them the wrong paddle or something weird like that. Regardless, the bottom line is USAPA did not approve these paddles, and you were not allowed to play with them in any tournament. But PPA said no, you could still play in our tournaments with it. That was up until Wednesday this week when PPA then said, you know what, actually, you’re not allowed to play with this here either. So this ended up catching a lot of players by surprise because now they had to play the next day with a brand-new paddle that they’re not used to playing with, and that includes Federico. Now the thing about it, is the players could still use the Alpha version of Joola, which wasn’t available to the public. And apparently, these Alpha paddles are the same as the Gen 3, they’re just different colors, like they just look a little bit different. I mean, I don’t know if they’re exactly the same.

Still, it’s very interesting that in the first tournament he can’t play with a Gen 3, Federico doesn’t make it to the finals. Also, while we’re on the subject of paddles getting banned, I got to talk about the Andrei Daescu situation. Andrei Daescu had a substance on his paddle. Nobody has been able to determine whether it was pine tar or not, but apparently, he did have something on there, and so Andrei Daescu is now suspended for 60 days and has to pay a fine of $50,000. He did put out this tweet:

I’m still not exactly sure what happened. I still highly doubt that he would have tried to use a pine tar paddle. Seems fairly obvious that you would get caught with that. To me, I think it’s fairly obvious that he wasn’t going to play with it. For those that don’t know, the ref literally wipes their hand on the paddle before every match to check for stuff like this. So how could you think you’d get away with it? I think it’s hard to make the call that he definitely did it on purpose. And with that, I definitely think 50k is a lot of money to make somebody pay for, and also two months suspended, that is a long time.

So anyways, let’s get back to the bronze medal match. It was 2-2 in the second game. Dylan Frazier took the first, and then Federico started swiping at the ball, aggressively, but Dylan maintained a 7-5 lead, pretty close game, Dylan was up by two, looking to make it three, and Federico falls down! Looks like he kind of tweaked his ankle a bit. He was grabbing onto it, not good. I’m going to start calling Dylan Frazier the ankle breaker. Why does everybody who’s playing him hurt their ankles? He took a medical timeout, but it’s as if this twisted ankle gave him superpowers. Federico Staksrud, able to score five straight points, gets it to a game point, trying to tie this match up one game a piece. And he does it 11-7. Federico is started to make a comeback. Then the ball took a weird bounce. Federico was clearly not happy. He called the ref over and said, “I want a new ball.” He gives it to Dylan like, hey, you check this out, you want to get rid of it? He’s like, yeah, let’s get rid of it. Let’s get a new one. Put it in the pile of balls that we’re not using. Here, take this one. Dylan then tests it out, he’s like, dude, wait a minute, no way. This one ain’t good either. Add it to the pile. Try a new one. Alright, alright, this one should be good, right? Test it out. Dylan’s like, no, dude, again? This is wobbly. This is egg-shaped. Get me a new one. And add it to the pile. Gosh, these Vulcan balls are so terrible!!! Hopefully, the new ones that they’re coming out with for next weekend at PPA Sacramento are a little bit better.

So finally, they get a ball that works. Game three is tight. It was 5-5, then 6-6, Federico was everywhere. It was a great game. Federico ends up with the bronze medal, keeping his medal streak alive.

Men’s Singles Gold medal Match

We got Christopher Haworth taking on Ben Johns. Christopher Haworth, the one to take down Federico in the semifinal. Christopher Haworth has beaten Ben Johns before. So 0-0 start this match off. Christopher Haworth playing tennis style, just ripping drives in there. Ben can’t defend some of them. 2-0 now, and Ben is so mad. Christopher Haworth came out strong, and he’s going to put this one away. Wins the first game 11-2, crushing Ben Johns. For the second game, Ben changed his shoes. But Christopher Haworth finds a 3-0 lead until Ben scores seven straight points with an ATP. Christopher can’t handle it. Ben up 10-3 now, and wins game two. So Ben up by one here in game three, and we get a crazy rally. Christopher Haworth not used to playing the cat-and-mouse stuff. He likes to hit his tennis drives. Ben gets his way up to the kitchen line, finally puts one away. Good hustle from both of them. Christopher Haworth was able to get it to 10-9 in the third game, but couldn’t hang on. So Ben, in three games, takes the men’s singles gold medal.

Men’s Doubles

This was a semi-final match between Ben and Colin Johns, and they’re taking on Matt Wright and Dekel Bar. So here we go. Game one. It’s 5-1. Matt Wright and Dekel Bar up. Ball down the middle, Ben and Colin both go for it. Ben visibly frustrated. So 7-2 now, and what’s interesting about Ben and Colin is it seems like the way to beat them is you got to be the one to speed up and attack. And if you could win the hands battles, you’ll come out on top. It’s now game point for Dekel Bar and Matt Wright, and one goes long. So they win game one. Game two, score is 2-1, and then a net cord on Colin Johns? Yes, he’s now frustrated. Ben is playing so aggressively, going right at Dekel Bar, gets the net cord. Colin’s like, yes, thank you, finally one in our favor. So Ben and Colin have the serve. It’s 8-10 for them. Ben rips it. Ben has a great serve and then drives a third. He is just going to attack any chance he gets. So they did get it to 10-9, but it’s match point and Dekel Bar attacks Colin, Colin can’t handle it. Matt Wright defeats Ben Johns and Colin Johns once again. Ben and Colin on a losing streak. This must be the first time in years that they have been on a losing streak. Ben takes off immediately.

Men’s Doubles Gold Medal Match

Matt Wright and Dekel Bar are going to be taking on JW Johnson and Dylan Frazier. Matt Wright, when he beat Ben and Colin two weeks ago with Federico, he was playing JW and Dylan. They did lose. So Matt Wright is looking for a little bit of revenge now with Dekel. So game one, we are at 8-6 here. JW and Dylan up by just two points. Dylan dinking, Dekel Bar dinking, JW dinking. We got a dink fest until Matt breaks it up with the lob. We’re tied one game apiece for this match. Dekel Bar and Matt Wright really did not put up a fight in game two, three, or four. Dylan and JW, they win the gold medal again for men’s doubles. This is their third in a row for men’s doubles. It does seem a little bit weird because you just kind of feel like they can’t beat Ben and Colin. The matchup just doesn’t quite work. But hey, Ben and Colin could not beat Matt Wright and Dekel Bar, and JW and Dylan did, so they deserve it. Gold medal goes to them.

Mixed Doubles

We’re going to start here at the semifinal match between JW Johnson and Jorja Johnson. They’re taking on Vivian David and Thomas Wilson. In game one, Jorja and JW were up 9-1, but Thomas Wilson and Vivian David started to get back into it. It’s 9-3, and we’re going to get a little dink fest. Ladies dinking. 10-3 now, game point for the Johnsons. JW fires at Viv, cleans up the counter. 11-3, they take game one. Game two, this one’s a little bit closer. Lob from Jorja. Drives in on the third, drops the fifth, and then an ATP. We end up tied at 10-10. JW and Jorja trying to get the serve back so they can win this thing in two games. Vivian and Thomas Wilson fight back. They get it to a game point. 11-10, trying to tie this match up at a game apiece. In game three, JW looked dehydrated. He’s like, I can’t take this anymore. But it’s 5-0. Johnson’s coming out strong, until Viv and Thomas came back and tied it at 5. Thomas Wilson hits an Ernie down the line. Gets it to 7-6. 8-8 now. This game is so tight here in game three, but the Johnsons win 11-8, and head to the gold medal match. Viv and Thomas to the bronze medal match, taking on Tyson McGuffin and Anna Bright.

Mixed Doubles Gold Medal Match

We’re on Fox, the national Fox channel, not Fox Sports. This is how we introduced pickleball to the NASCAR audience. So apparently all the NASCAR fans were really upset because pickleball was on, and they pushed the NASCAR race over to FS1 to rub it in, I guess. They showed a segment of two racers playing pickleball. I love the idea of pickleball fans and NASCAR fans arguing over which sport is more boring. Anyway, suck it, NASCAR fans. It’s time for a real sport. Ben Johns, Anna Leigh Waters versus the Johnson siblings for the mixed doubles gold medal match.

Okay, so game one, not the most exciting. It was 10-2. Game point for Ben and Anna Leigh. At least we get an ATP. Look, NASCAR fans, yeah, sure, the score line was a little bit uninteresting, but compared to just turning on a lap four times in a row, I mean, this is definitely superior to that, right? Alright, game two. It’s 4-2, looking slightly boring with a lot of dinking. Johnson’s up 5-2, but Ben and Anna Leigh, they end up coming back into this one. It’s 10-7 game point, and Jorja hits one long, Ben and ALW win. One more game to go for Ben and Anna Leigh. Ben and Anna Leigh start running away and it gets worse. However, JW and Jorja, they start to wake up and bring it back to just a two point game. Jorja firing right at Ben. JW and Jorja fought off seven match points in the third game, but ultimately the gold medal for mixed doubles once again, goes to Ben and Anna Leigh.

Women’s Doubles

This gold medal match was an incredible between Anna Leigh Waters and Catherine Parenteau versus Callie Smith and Lucy Kovalova. This was a classic. Game one, we’re tied up at three. Anna Leigh Waters and Catherine Parenteau pretty much ran away with it and won 11-3. In game two, Anna Leigh goes for a tweener, gets it across, but Lucy puts it away and celebrates a little bit. But once again, 10-3 in game two. There were tons of overheads. Anna Leigh and Catherine glide to 11-3.

Callie Smith, she hit’s quite the banger off the net in game three. It’s now 10-4, they scored one more point than they did in the previous two games, but that’s about it. Anna Leigh Waters, Catherine Parenteau, they’re going to take the gold medal for women’s doubles once again. Three straight games. I bet everybody watching Fox that doesn’t watch pickleball loves this. Most likely not, but let’s pretend like they did.

Women’s Singles

We’re going to start with the semifinal match between Lea Jansen and Catherine Parenteau. This one was very late at night because we had rain delays all day long, and so they just put up a stream on YouTube with no commentary. And man, was it great.

So in game one, Parenteau was pretty much in control from the beginning. Lea couldn’t hang with it. Parenteau is going to take game one 11-6. No paddle tap. So to start game two, Parenteau with an early 2-0 lead. Lea Jansen is starting to get frustrated and hits it kinda hard to Parenteau. I feel like it’s not ball abuse if you perfectly hit it to the player. Lea up by a point now at 9-8, trying to get this to a game point here. She gets up to the kitchen. Catherine Parenteau trying to get her way in there. Can’t get anything past Lea’s amazing reach. Lea gets it to 10-8 and wins game point.

It’s now 5-4 in game three. Very tight. Catherine Parenteau hits one off the net. Jansen comes in, gets it across and screams. I don’t know why it’s so funny that she’s screaming and it’s so quiet there. Everybody’s like, oh, she’s angry. Don’t make eye contact for the three people that were in the stands. I think it was like 1 p.m. or later at this point, central time. So match point for Lea Jansen to make it to the final for women’s singles. Does she pull it off? She drives one down the line for the win, onward to the gold medal match for her.

Women’s singles Gold Medal Match

Lea Jansen, who is she going to take on for women’s singles? Salome Devidze. Wait, what? I knew this would be an awesome match because these two have a bit of a rivalry, but where the heck is Anna Leigh Waters? More on that to come later. So if you guys don’t remember, two weeks ago we had Salome and Lea playing in the bronze medal match. Lots of overturned close line calls. So Salome has requested more refs for this match, which you are allowed to do, by the way. Lea loses game one, no paddle tap. Then Lea had game point on her paddle in round two. She gets her way and we’re going to game three to decide the gold medal. No paddle tap again. It got intense.

Lea is getting coached by some popular tennis figure. His name is Mike Wolfe. If you know tennis, I guess you know him. I have no clue who he is, but I guess Lea has been working with him in MLP and was like, hey, can you help me with my singles? So far, so good. Lea on fire in game three. She can do no wrong and gets the gold medal for women’s singles, her second of the year. Yeah, Lea, you’ve been in 22 finals now, capturing your fourth career gold on the PPA Tour. When you say it like that, that’s a pretty pathetic record. You might recognize this guy that’s giving out the trophy. That’s DJ Selkirk. He’s all buttoned up. Super exciting time.

“On behalf of CIBC, the PPA Tour, and Pickleball Central, I’m pleased to announce or, uh, to give you this trophy, the CIBC Texas Open, powered by Tixr—”

He doesn’t even know how to do this. “Congratulations.” Just play some music, dude. I feel like he would have done it better if he did it in his DJ Selkirk voice.

“Alright, ladies and gentlemen, I’m giving out the CIBC Texas Open, powered by Tixr, trophy to Lea Jansen.”

Alright, well, that’s going to do it. For full version video recaps and exclusive content, head to my “Sorry Not Sorry Pickleball” YouTube channel.

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